It was always going to be the looming concern over this tournament. World Rugby introduced a new high-tackle sanction framework earlier this year in their bid to reduce the tackle height. It meant more cards were expected and more debate anticipated.
It took just one game for the issue to rare its head. Fiji fell to a 39-21 loss against Australia but the game's turning point was a hit on the electric Peceli Yato. Australian full-back Reece Hodge's no arms hit looked to be red card worthy but the TMO did not intervene and Yato left the field for a HIA.
Ross Tucker, the sports scientist who played a part in developing World Rugby's decision-making framework, took to social media to declare the incident red card worthy.
High Tackle Sanction Framework
Shoulder or high? Shoulder, because the right arm is behind plane of body on contact
1. Head contact? Y
2. Danger? Automatically high for shoulder -> head
Entry point = red
3. Mitigation? No
Final = red
I also don't know why it wasn't referred... pic.twitter.com/bwTPSsA7bF
— Ross Tucker (@Scienceofsport) September 21, 2019
The biggest issue with any disciplinary process is consistency. A similar issue arose during the tournament's opening game between Japan and Russia. If hits go unpunished now but are flagged later, player's frustration would be understandable.
— Jacques Burger (@Nabasboer) September 20, 2019
Speaking to Balls.ie prior to the tournament, World Cup referee Wayne Barnes said players had responded positively to the new directives.
This isn't something new we have been saying we are going after this high tackle in the last week or month. During the last Six Nations, we had this. We said we are going to protect the ball carrier we don't want him being hit high. There weren't any red cards in the Six Nations. There was one yellow card for foul play in the whole tournament.
It is a new era for players, fans and referees. Hopefully, the tournament does not suffer as a result.