The irony of Shaun Edwards critiquing the dangers of choke tackles, while leaving a concussion-suffering George North on pitch is not lost on us.
There is getting your excuses in early and then there is Shaun Edwards. This time, it is the Irish choke tackle that is at the centre of the all-knowledgeable Englishman’s ire.
Speaking at a press conference Monday night, Edwards said, “I think it’s very dangerous. I think it encourages people to tackle high.”
The former Wigan Rugby League player then went on to say that the technique – which involves holding up the ball carrier until a maul is formed and usually ends with a turnover in possession – was a ”blight” on the game.
This from a guy who had a career in a game – rugby league – that constantly encourages two tacklers to the ball carrier where one goes low to stop the player and one goes high to prevent the off load.
As for the danger aspect of the tackle, most choke tackles are as a result of the ball carrier going into contact too high, not being able to get to ground once tackled and being held up or “choked”.
Given how safety conscious the game has now become and rightly so; if the choke tackle is as hazardous as Edwards thinks, then World Rugby would have legislated for it.
There is nothing to say that the choke tackle is any more dangerous that the prescribed tackling technique espoused by coaches on the training pitch.
Concussion on the other hand is a blight on the game. During their clash with England it was blatantly obvious that George North had suffered concussion but remained on the field.
World Rugby accepted the Wales Rugby Union’s account of the incident saying that Welch medical team simply didn’t see the concussion incident.
Despite being perched up in the stands behind a bank of monitors and computer screens neither Edwards, Rob Howley, Robin McBryde nor Neil Jenkins thought the knock warranted the player leaving the field. Perhaps they didn’t see it either.
It seems that the television audience at home – via television replay – was better informed on North’s concussion and welfare than the WRU coaching or medical staff. It is therefore a little rich that Edwards should now be extolling player safety and even harder to take his concerns seriously.
This is not the first time the Welch defensive coach has aired his concern with aspects of opposition tactics. Before the opening game, he warned of the dastardly English and their illegal rugby league style tactics of running beyond the ball and obstructing would be tacklers.
Wales are in a sticky position, having lost at home to England and were it not for some poor refereeing in the Scotland game could very well be 0-2. They have been unconvincing to date and one would imagine that Edwards and co would be better served by focusing on the clash in Paris.
It is hard to see Edwards’s comments as little more than mind games and good luck to him if he thinks he is going to get inside Joe Schmidt’s head. A team of FBI interrogators could not distract the Irish coach from his task of beating England this weekend.