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Shaun Edwards reckons there are ‘way too many’ red cards in rugby

Shaun Edwards

France defence coach Shaun Edwards has questioned where defenders are supposed to tackle players when they are carrying the ball at a very low body height.

Red cards have become much more prevalent in rugby in recent years, as World Rugby aim to reduce the number of head injuries that occur in the game, due to former players being diagnosed with illnesses such as dementia at a young age.

Players are being urged not to tackle high as a result, but Edwards has pointed out that defenders can also be penalised if they fail to wrap their arms, which is more difficult to do when attempting to tackle a player in the legs straight on.

Edwards was speaking on the BBC’s Scrum V podcast and argued that there is no target area for defenders to aim for when attackers are carrying the ball at a low height.

Shaun Edwards on red cards and target areas of defenders.

“Personally I think there’s way too many [red cards]. But I’m not an official to tell them how to do it. One question I would like to ask sometimes is; many, many, many times people say where the target area to tackle is not,” Edwards said.

“If someone’s picking and going and they’ve got someone latched onto him and he’s really low and bent over, where is the target area? It’s okay to say where is not the target area but I would like to ask some referees, ‘Please advise me where the target area is.’

“You’re very good at telling us where it’s not, but where is it? Please advise… If you get the legs it [can be] a no-arms tackle. If you go for the normal mid-height you might hit his head when he’s bent over. So where is the target area?

“That’s what I’m asking them. Where is it? Where is the target area? I don’t see one.”

World Rugby are left in a difficult position.

World Rugby have stated that their number one priority is the health of their players, which is certainly a reasonable stance to take based off the long-term effects of repeated head injuries.

However, it is difficult for defenders to avoid making high tackles when attackers are carrying the ball so low, where the first point of contact is the head/shoulders area.

As Edwards said, attempting to tackle a player carrying the ball low into contact can often result in a penalty for failing to wrap, while tacking the legs would be largely ineffective if players are a metre or two out from the try line and must be stopped immediately.

There is no easy answer to the problem, although it must be said that defending players find themselves in a more difficult position, as there is no penalty for attacking players charging head first into contact, even though it makes head collisions far more likely.

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