Equal and opposite forces
All rugby’s problems rolled into one wincing collision. Pone Fa’amausili is an enormous human being. All six foot five inches and 130kgs of him, the 24-year-old aspires to become a Wallaby in 2021. On Saturday the Melbourne Rebels heavyweight received the ball outside the ACT Brumbies 22, instantly spotting incumbent Australian tighthead Allan Alaalatoa’s in the corner of his right eye. Fa’amausili nimbly changed direction, with five thumping strides before Alaalatoa’s right shoulder chinned him.
Newton’s third law sprang to mind after the Australian commentator compared the props to “buffalos at each other.”
The Brumbies captain was red carded for direct contact to the head with force. Knocked out, Fa’amausili also departed. There is no debate around the decision but what does one do when a buffalo charges straight at you? Alaalatoa’s low and wide stance was textbook, but just as Fa’amausili dropped his body height, the tackler exploded up and into him. Such split second reactions keep happening.
“At the moment World Rugby are pushing for any head contact to be red carded and we’ve got to live with it,” said Brumbies coach Dan McKellar.
At the moment. Bundee Aki was banned from a career game as a result of zero tolerance at the 2019 World Cup. After that tournament yellow cards were handed out for actions that previously merited red. Now – perhaps motivated by dementia in 40-year-olds – there is a sustained attempt to eradicate neck or head contact.
Using the Will Connors tackle technique as an example, coaches keep noting that “players need to change behaviour.”
Red cards ruin games. Sub-concussive impacts destroy families. Fa’amausili dipped as Alaalatoa was rising. Solve that Isaac.
Silence the refs in conclave (for their own sake)
Stop all the passive aggressive interactions between referee and captain, not to mention referee and television match official by putting the officials into silent conclave.
Frank Murphy, like Pascal Gauzere, like Andrew Brace, is in need of genuine assistance. Referees could do with examining a game altering moment without the rest of the world ear wigging conversations with the TMO.
Next time Andrew Warwick leads with a soft elbow into Ed Byrne’s neck, let Murphy, his assistants and the TMO mimic the officiating in American sports. Hit the mute button and debate the intricacies of the law they are about to administer. Argue their way to consensus. Heck, go all out and link World Rugby overseers Joe Schmidt or Joël Jutge into the conversation.
Post match, Jutge can explain how contentious decisions are reached, but in the heat of battle remove the handicap of TMOs refusing to openly question a ref. Or vice versa.
Another proactive step would be to remove “sir, sir” when players address the whistle blower. If you want to be treated like a child, then keep behaving like the ref is a “house master” at a private boarding school. How about, as a sign of mutual respect, first names all round?
Go one further and create officiating teams of four. Rank them statistically. Make the appointments for big games truly competitive. The current twitter treatment of Murphy, Gauzere and Brace is only going to drive potential referees away from the sport.
Word Of Mouth
“The tackler has to do better to get lower.” Frank Murphy sin bins Devin Toner for a high tackle on Mike Lowry.
“You are joking.” Dev Toner reacts to the yellow card (there is 16 inches in height between them).
“The first UCD Rugby Club became aware of the allegations against John McClean was through a media report in 2018. To date, no incident relating to John McClean has been brought forward to the club. UCD Rugby Club complies with all of the measures detailed in the Children’s First Act 2015, as implemented by the UCD Athletic Union Council, the Governing Body for UCD clubs. The Rugby Club is also fully compliant with all IRFU requirements. The crimes that John McClean committed are abhorrent and the devastation that his actions have caused to so many people is unforgivable.” UCD rugby club’s response to The Sunday Independent asking what changes the university has made to ensure a paedophile cannot become their director of rugby in the future.
“You’ve to control the controllables.” Ireland captain Ciara Griffin provides a 64 second interview on IRFU TV in reaction to the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand being postponed.
By The Numbers
5 – yellow cards (and one red) in Ulster v Leinster at Ravenhill.
One Year Deals
Johnny Sexton has presumably begun negotiations with Leinster to include him in their financial budget for the 2022-23 season. That is the employment issue facing the most decorated player still on the IRFU books. The Ireland captain’s salary will need to be covered by the province if his days under national contract end in August 2022.
Seán O’Brien was forced abroad to continue plying his trade abroad after Leinster opted to invest in two, even three up and coming backrows rather than pay an injury prone O’Brien the six figure salary he currently commands at London Irish.
It looks like the same decision regarding Sexton is coming down the tracks for Leo Cullen.
“The contracting side is always difficult,” Cullen explained last month, “it’s competitive here and there’s difficult conversations naturally because there’s a crop of younger players coming in.
“It’s not like our number gets bigger here every year, our number stays the exact same and that’s why for every young player that comes into the building someone has to leave to make space for that person. So, there’s always difficult conversations and this year it’s more challenging than normal.”
The one-year deal means that Sexton negotiations are already up and running. It also makes form and fitness more important than ever.