World Rugby have come under fire for their initiative to clamp down on high tackles after an incident involving Reece Hodge went unpunished during Australia’s World Cup encounter with Fiji.
The Australian winger’s shoulder made contact with Peceli Yato’s head in the 26th minute of the game while he also failed to use his arms in the tackle.
The Fijian flanker, who was in full flight and looked to be heading for the try line, was forced to leave the pitch and subsequently failed the head injury assessment, ruling him out of their next game against Uruguay on Wednesday.
"He comes in with no arms. He's made contact with the head with his shoulder" – Stringer.
"It's quite simple. It moves straight over to a red card" – D'Arcy.
— eir Sport (@eirSport) September 21, 2019
Referee Ben O’Keefe did not see the incident but was asked to consult his TMO by the Fiji contingent. However, TMO Rowann Kitt found no issue in the tackle and play resumed.
Yato had been in incredible form and it was his early try that helped the Fijians to an 8-0 lead against the Wallabies. However, Hodge had a major say in Australia’s comeback as his try and penalty contributed to their eventual 39-21 win.
Ross Tucker, who helped World Rugby draw up their framework for high tackles, was one of the first to take to Twitter to explain why Hodge should have received a red card.
Following the game, Fiji head coach admitted that Yato’s departure had a major impact on the game but insisted he had no quarrels with the referee.
“The referees have a tough job and a lot was going on out there but we haven’t got any complaints.
“With a short turnaround, Peceli can’t be right for the next game because it is a six-day turnaround for a HIA (minimum return to play protocol).”
Earlier this month, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said that red cards would be dealt out, if necessary, in order to protect player welfare while doubling down on their zero-tolerance policy when it comes to high tackles.
“The high tackle framework does what it’s intended to do, which is provide players with better protection for both the ball-carrier and the tackler,” Gosper said.
“There’s a debate to be had on any red card, but there’s a clarity around this framework which takes some of the grey area in interpretation out.
“We’d rather not see red cards but we have to prioritise player welfare over disruption of any one game at a World Cup.
“I believe this is the best group of referees, match officials and TMOs we’ve ever had.
“There will be things that happen – there always are in World Cups – but the referees couldn’t be better prepared.
“The high tackle framework is to change behaviour and it’s very clear on what is a high tackle and what the sanctions are.”