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Former All Blacks Coach Gives Controversial Opinion On Use Of Red Cards In Rugby

Former All Blacks Coach Gives Controversial Opinion On Use Of Red Cards In Rugby
Gary Connaughton
By Gary Connaughton
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World Rugby has made some major changes to the game in recent years as it seeks to minimise the amount of head injuries suffered by players.

As a result, high tackles are being punished with far more frequency than they had been in the past. Red cards used to be a very rare occurrence in professional rugby, although the new laws mean that they are now a regular part of the sport at the highest level.

It is hoped that harsh punishments will result in players quickly changing their tackling technique, something that would go a long way towards limiting serious head injuries. You would think that this is something that most people in the game could agree on.

However, some feel that the changes have been too drastic.

Steve Hansen questions World Rugby and use of red cards


Steve Hansen is someone who puts a big emphasis on maintaining the traditions of the sport and he is not enjoying the way rugby has changed in recent years.

Speaking ahead of taking charge of a World XV side against The Barbarians at Twickenham this weekend, he said that the frequency of red cards is ruining too many games (h/t RTÉ).

We see a lot of red cards and while I understand that I just don’t understand why we ruin the game with them.

Fans want to see a contest – one of the biggest principles of the game is a fair contest – and we’re giving people red cards for unintentional accidents and calling it foul play.

If you keep giving red cards out people will think the game’s dirty so it’s imploding upon itself.

It’s easy for me to sit here and have all the answers, but somehow we’ve got to bring a more common-sense approach to finding a solution rather than just a penalty.

I wonder if we do this because we want to be able to say 'well at least we’ve done that’ if we then go to a court hearing?

That’s pretty cynical of me to think like that, but I can’t help it because sending players off is not fixing the problem.

Is the data saying we are getting less head knocks by doing what we are doing at the moment? I don’t think so.

This is an opinion that is unlikely to be popular.

While red cards certainly do have an impact on the spectacle on show, the vast majority of them are completely avoidable if players simply tackled within the rules of the game.

After all, the health of players should be paramount above all else.


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