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Opinion: Has Rugby Gone A Bit Soft On Challenges In The Air?

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 22: Jason Emery of the Highlanders receives a red card for a dangerous tackle from referee Ben O'Keefe during the round nine Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Sharks at Forsyth Barr Stadium on April 22, 2016 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

Jason Emery of the Highlanders was sent off during his side’s match against the Sharks for a contact with Willie le Roux while in the air yesterday.

Le Roux somersaulted and landed on his neck and Emery was shown the red card for dangerous play (watch below).

Thankfully Springbok Le Roux sustained no more than a sore neck from the incident. He was taken off for a concussion check, but was allowed back on to the pitch.

The Highlanders, though, had to play 67 minutes with 14 men and it possibly lost them a thriller of a match with the Sharks winning 15-14.

The strange thing about the whole affair is the consulting of the TMO. After reviewing it from multiple angles, the TMO deemed Emery did not intentionally take out Le Roux in the air. He was overruled by referee Ben O’Keefe though, and Emery was shown a red card.

It does appear on the video that Emery has his eyes on the ball all the time. He would have known Le Roux was coming, but where exactly he was he could not have known until they clashed in mid-air. And that does beg the question, have we gone soft on these things?

Yes, the situation was dangerous and yes, we could demand more awareness from players in these situations. But the fact remains that accidents can happen.

When this sort of incident, which could potentially be fatal, is caused by a player intentionally taking out the player in the air, there is no forgiving it. A red card should be shown and a serious ban given to the player.

But in a number of cases, including the 2014 incident with Ulster’s Jared Payne and Saracens’ Alex Goode, there is more evidence to suggest it wasn’t intentional than it being a deliberate action.

Surely it was never the intention of the sport that players get sent off for accidents?

If we start doing that, we might as well begin handing out sin-binnings for bruising a fly half’s ribs in the tackle, or for causing a front row player to have a sore neck and shoulder at the end of the match.

Of course this could have ended badly for Le Roux, but if it is not intentional, nobody should be punished for it. In fact, those are the rules as well, which is why the referee had to overrule the TMO to send Emery off. If O’Keefe had deemed it to be unintentional, there would have been no consequences. Maybe a penalty would have been given instead.

Why he did this anyway, we will never know. But the call does more damage to the game than it does good.

The fact remains that it would appear rugby union has gone very soft on unintentional acts of dangerous play. And dangerous though some of them may be, they do not merit these sort of sanctions.

Paul Peerdeman, Pundit Arena


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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.