Clip 4 - 6 November 2017 - Law 10

Worth a yellow card?

From a scrum near their lines, the Barbarians go blind and scrumhalf Augustine Pulu grubbers ahead. Israel Folau of Australia gathers the ball and runs ahead, Both Pulu and Quade Cooper bring Folau down.

The referee then examines the tackle and decides that it was high and that force was used, a recipe for a dangerous tackle and Cooper, the captain of the Barbarians, was sent to the sin bin with eight minutes to play in a match in which the scores were close.

The commentator mentions that it is a Barbarians as if that were a mitigating circumstance. One should not really worry about this as any rugby mat chg, including when the Barbarians are playing, is played according to the laws of rugby football. Laws concerning forward passes, knock-ons, when the ball is in touch, offside and so in still exist and so does the law governing foul play.

It's not that it is because the Barbarians are playing that this decision is worth debating but whether it was a sensible application of the laws of the game.

Law 10.4 (e) Dangerous tackling. A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.
Sanction: Penalty kick
A player must not tackle (or try to tackle) an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. A tackle around the opponent’s neck or head is dangerous play.
Sanction: Penalty kick

Any further sanction is up to the referee:

Law 10.5 Sanctions
(a) Any player who infringes any part of the Foul Play Law must be admonished, or cautioned and temporarily suspended for a period of ten minutes’ playing time, or sent-off.

In this case the referee decided on temporary suspension.

That is the referee's right, but it does not mean that the matter cannot be debated.

World Rugby has a directive on the matter.

Reckless Tackle
A player is deemed to have made reckless contact during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game if in making contact, the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway. This sanction applies even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. This type of contact also applies to grabbing and rolling/ twisting around the head/ neck area even if the contact starts below the line of the shoulders.
Minimum sanction: Yellow card
Maximum sanction: Red card

Accidental Tackle
When making contact with another player during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game, if a player makes accidental contact with an opponent’s head, either directly or where the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders, the player MAY be sanctioned. This includes situations where the ball carrier slips into the tackle.
Minimum sanction: Penalty

It is hard to think that this was a reckless tackle. The sudden appearance of Folau probably meant that Cooper knew or should have known that there was a risk involved in his action which may well have been a knee-jerk action.

The referee's description of the use of force is also debatable. Cooper's contact seems to have been momentary and that he pulled his hand away as soon as he knew what he was doing.

That Folau fell to ground may also not have been Cooper's doing as Pulu was also involved in tackling Folau. 

There is no law stating that the referee had to send Cooper to the sin bin for his action. It was the referee's assessment that led to the sin-binning. He could have decided not to send Cooper to the sin bin at all.

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