World Rugby have instructed referees to crack down on dangerous or reckless contact with players’ heads as we embark upon the second round of autumn fixtures this weekend.
The governing body have instructed all match officials to be “strict when it comes to tackles, charges, strikes or kicks that make contact above the shoulder line and to favour firm sanctions for offenders, up to and including red cards for severe examples”.
Quoted on World Rugby’s website, Match Officials Selection Committee Chairman Anthony Buchanan said:
World Rugby’s number-one priority is player welfare and the laws of the game clearly state that the necks and heads of players are sacrosanct.
When it comes to foul play, the game is cleaner now than ever before but, as referees, we must constantly be alert to head-high hits.
By taking this strong approach, we are saying to players that tackling an opponent above the shoulder line will not go unpunished.
In addition, while striking or kicking an opponent is never acceptable, it is a more serious offence when it involves contact with the head or neck.
Even ball-carriers must be careful that they fend off tacklers legally and do not strike opponents with forearms or elbows.
While this specific directive is going out to match officials at the elite international grade, we are reminding all unions and referee societies at every level of rugby to take note and strictly enforce current law in this important area.
Separately, match officials have also been asked to watch out for players standing ahead of the hindmost foot at rucks, and obstructing opponents from moving forwards.
If the referees do in fact assert such a law, it will prevent players from essentially forming a screen in front of the scrum half, and prevent the practice of those at the apex of rucks blocking defenders.
Something CJ Stander did without any degree of subtly against the All Blacks in Chicago.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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