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England winger Jack Nowell calls for end to ‘silly’ red cards


England international Jack Nowell has called for an end to red cards for “accidental” collisions which result in players getting banned for weeks at a time.

The number of red cards being handed out has increased drastically in recent years, as referees have taken a much tougher approach to contact with the head due to fears over concussion.

Nowell has spent plenty of time out of the game recently due to separate injuries to his toe and hamstring, and told the Telegraph that he doesn’t want to see other players spend time out due to unfortunate collisions.

Jack Nowell on red cards.

“I feel that a lot of the stuff at the minute comes from ex-players or people not involved in the game. I don’t feel like there’s a lot of stuff coming from current coaches, players or physios,” Nowell said.

“I tweeted about the Jack Yeandle (Exeter hooker) incident – you’re talking centimetres sometimes. Jack is the least dirty player I’ve seen – he didn’t mean to shoulder someone in the head.

“It was a rugby collision, one of those things. If someone is over a breakdown and their head is against someone else’s back then there’s not really anything else you can connect with.”

‘Players are missing big games for accidents.’

The Exeter Chiefs player recognises that player safety is paramount in light of recent revelations regarding the damage repeated concussions can cause. But he believes some nuance to the debate is necessary.

Nowell pointed out a recent incident as one he found particularly perplexing, when Gloucester’s Ollie Thorley was shown a red card after an accidental head-on-head collision with Wasps’ fullback Robert Miller.

“When it’s accidental… a prime example would be Ollie Thorley for Gloucester. He is looking at the ball, he has his arms down, he has a split-second to go from high to low while watching the ball, and he’s accidentally connected with someone’s head,” Nowell explained.

“He’s getting a red card and a ban for however many weeks, but that’s a rugby collision. Players are missing big games for accidental things happening on the field.

“It is a tough one and I’m all for protecting players… but the accidental, split-second decisions where players are picking up four, five-week bans, are just silly.”

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