By Paul Shaughnessy
Rugby cannot afford to have a ‘grey area’ when it comes to head contact, according to Irish legends Gordon D’Arcy and Keith Wood.
The pair joined Joe Molloy on Wednesday Night Rugby where they discussed inconsistencies in relation to red cards being issued for head-on-head collisions.
Owen Farrells high tackle on Gloucester replacement Jack Clement in the Premiership clash last Friday has brought about a debate. The England out-half was handed out a four-match ban, but that will be reduced to a three-week suspension if he takes part in the World Rugby Intervention Programme.
England begin their Six Nations campaign under new head coach Steve Borthwick against Scotland on February 4th. .
Should Borthwick name the England captain in his initial Six Nations squad, his ban will affect the championship opener.
However, if he is omitted from Borthwick’s first squad and named as eligible for Saracens’ clash with Bristol a week before the start of the Six Nations, then Farrell will not play against Bristol and will have served out his three match ban to be available for the clash with Scotland.
As part of the mitigation down to three weeks, Farrell’s trip to ‘tackle school’ is intended to force a change to his tackle technique.
However, D’Arcy has faced Farrell, and does not expect him to change his game.
‘’Owen Farrell isn’t going to change his tackle technique,” D’Arcy said. "I remember being tackled by him and it is the exact same thing he goes for an impact tackle but him and Johnny Wilkinson had similar tackle techniques, but it is the most impact and trying to stop you on the gain line.
“He hits you so hard pound for pound and that’s way he’s tackled his whole life and he’s not going to change.’’
Ex-Munster star Keith Wood outlined the fact that the England star doesn’t have a bad disciplinary record, in spite of his reputation for poor tackle technique.
‘’All fans would probably say that he gets away with a lot,” Wood said. "Farrell plays on the edge all the time.’
‘’We said this at the start of the season could rugby stop eating itself alive, could it stop doing daft things and we have loop hole what builds into this. The process is far from perfect.’’
Rugby is ‘eating itself’
In the past few weeks, there have been several incidents where rugby fans have been confused where a red card should be shown or not.
D’Arcy agreed with his former international team-mate that he would love to see rugby to stop trying to ‘eat itself’.
‘’My kind of feeling on rugby is we can’t have a grey area at the moment because players aren’t changing their behaviours,” D’Arcy said.
“Like giving any player a six-week ban who makes contact with the head that’s not enough for one player to change their behaviour.
"Until We go that’s a red card and the minimum sanction goes way up we’re still going to be having this conversation for a long time to come.’’
‘’It’s hard because how are you able to determine if someone’s head is virtually on the ground and you make contact with it,” Wood added. “I don’t know actually and that area of grey that’s in there makes it very difficult. You want all the players to finish the game, that’s one of the things we need to get our heads around and I don’t think we are properly."
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