Never mind the fear of not making selection. Or picking up an injury. Recently it seems like the number one threat to playing time is World Rugby’s Citing Commissioner.
Bosch, Ford, Grey, Hooper, Tuilagi, Macovei, Waqaniburto, O’Brien. The list goes on. What do they have in common? They, like many others in this World Cup, have felt the wrath of the citing commissioner. What they don’t have in common however is the length of ban they received.
Compare Waqaniburotu’s ban received for a tip tackle against England to that handed down to Ford and Grey this week. Was there a two week difference in severity? Probably not. Similar offences, different results.
It certainly appears that on many occasions hairs are being split, fingers are being licked and dice are being rolled with extreme deviations in the length of sanction being received. The game should be played safely, no doubt about that. Players should be punished for foul play, absolutely. Is the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over these players’ heads, perhaps yes.
The nanny state that is in place in this World Cup jeopardises the soul of the game. The danger is that by being too prescriptive in the strict interpretation of the law, that players will start to concern themselves not with executing a tackle effectively, but with worrying about the manner in which that tackle is undertaken. When you think too much about motor skills, thing start to go wrong.
I sincerely doubt Alesana Tuilagi, thought “I’ll knee this guy in the head” nor do I think Ford and Grey quickly put their heads together to premeditate a two handed illegal rucking manoeuvre.
Should you be unlucky enough to be summoned before the citing commissioner, you then face an huge uncertainty as to what sanction you will receive. Don’t forget that on appeal Tuilagi had his ban cut by three weeks. A staggering, yet justified reduction, from the original five. One could be forgiven for asking how on earth it was allowed to be so wrong in the first instance?
Rugby is played at 100mph, decisions are made in split seconds. Credit should be given to players for that, and some common sense needs to be utilised when looking back at ‘foul play’.
After all its hard to catch a ball whilst wrapped in cotton wool.