This year’s RWC has brought on quite a bit of a buzz regarding referee decisions on the field. As well as the lack thereof, which led to some post-match suspensions. There is increasing support for safe play in this highly physical sport, and World Rugby introduced a new system which is focussed on dealing with high-tackles in such a way to sanction it entirely from the field.
Referees have three vital choices to make when tackles occur which are deemed dangerous. These choices are made with the assistance of the Television Match Official. First, they need to determine whether there was any form of contact with the player’s neck or head. Secondly, it should be determined how high the level of danger was for the player during the moment of contact. Thirdly any mitigating factors should be considered. These would include moments where players might be diving into a tackle.
Up to this point in the tournament, a lot of these decisions were mostly made post-match and not during play. It seems that players who made themselves guilty of hard hits during playtime received no mercy afterwards from the committee. Currently, four players have already been lashed at by the committee. They are the two Samoans, Motu Matu’u and Rey Lee-Lo, the Wallaby, Reece Hodge and John Quill playing the United States. All four of these players were suspended for three matches due to tackles which were deemed dangerous by the committee. These repercussions were not reflected during game time. On-field it was only the American who received a red card. A yellow card was handed to both Samoans and Hodge walked off the field at the end of the game with no repercussions for his actions at all during play.
A Rare Rebuke
It was the incident with Hodge which caused an outcry in the world of rugby as well as led to a refusal. Hodge had a dangerous tackle on Peceli Yato playing for Fiji. Even though no action was taken against him on the field, the committee later on convened and determined that he should’ve received a red card for his tackle. This led to his suspension for three matches. The coach for Australia, Michael Cheika, expressed in return his disappointment towards the coaching staff of Fiji for pinpointing Hodge. According to Hodge he was unaware of the new framework of World Rugby and wasn’t trained on playing that way. This comment came as a complete surprise to the committee since the structure was decided upon in conjunction with all the leading coaches of the globe.
Since these hearings occurred, they believe that the level of refereeing improved vastly, said Alan Gilpin, the AFP tournament organizer. Gilpin also stated that there has been a lot of discussions regarding the new framework to minimize injury through dangerous tackles and that by now no team member can still indicate that they were unaware of the new regulations. Thus severe punishment will be handed to those who are on disregard the guidelines given.