THIS is absurd – the refereeing of the tip tackle which is rapidly becoming the biggest talking point in Welsh, if not in world rugby.
How can Alain Rolland send off Wales captain Sam Warburton for, in his opinion, dangerously upending French wing Vincent Clerc then only a few weeks later French official Mathieu Raynal give
Stephen Jones a yellow card for a similar offence on Irish wing Tommy Bowe?
Rule are rules, so it’s a red card or it’s yellow, or it’s nothing more than a warning. It can’t be red for one player and yellow for another when the offence committed is exactly the same.
I have not wavered in my opinion that it was a wretched decision to send Warburton off and, ironically, if Raynal had been in charge of the World Cup semi-final Warburton would have been able to
resume after ten minutes in the sin-bin.
The Frenchman obviously felt it wasn’t as serious a matter as Rolland did, and he will receive a great deal of sympathy for his understanding - neither Jones nor Warburton being a dirty player, no
malice was involved and neither player affected was injured.
I know Warburton has since said he deserved to be sent off, but he’s probably just saying the right things with a view to his future career. A gentleman he is, beyond question.
It is significant, though, that ex-dual code star Jonathan Davies says the game is going soft and that rugby league people believe Warburton’s tackle was the best of the World Cup.
People like Pontypool legends Ray Prosser and Bobby Windsor have long held the view that the game had, indeed, gone soft with the depowering of the scrum.
Imagine what they would have thought of this ‘crouch, touch, hold’ lark in the scrum before the rival packs get to grips with one another.
To them, and others, the scrum was a weapon and they prided themselves on it. They would have scoffed at the current regulations.
Now we have this tip tackle fiasco. Surely the criteria has to be that if a player is actually driven into the ground causing injury, as happened in the ‘celebrated’ case involving Brian O’Driscoll
for the Lions against the All Blacks in 2005, then that is a sending off. Other than that it’s a yellow card.
As it is, Rolland can now expect a rough ride in Wales, heightened by the decision of a French colleague not to give Stephen Jones a red on Saturday.
It was suggested Rolland was due to handle Friday night’s Dragons-Blues clash only for Nigel Owens to be appointed. And Rolland will not take charge of any of Wales’ games in the Six Nations –
But it’s what you get when there is such confusion and such inconsistency over the interpretation of the tip tackle law. We haven’t heard the last of this.
And neither have we on two big playing issues ahead of Wales’ rapid return against Australia on December 3 and into the Six Nations – who will be the Wales captain and who will wear the No 10
I’ll say here and now that Warburton will be captain and Rhys Priestland will be the outside half, provided he recovers from his shoulder injury.
Matthew Rees, who was captain and a good one at that before a neck injury ruled him out of the World Cup, is now fit again and has declared he wants the leadership role back.
But Warburton was an outstanding captain during the World Cup, he grew into the position and it was fascinating to watch him develop fully during the seven weeks in New Zealand.
He is clearly the future, there is no reason to change now and it is inconceivable coach Warren Gatland will go back to Rees, however much regard he has for him as a player and leader.
And complicating the issue is the form of Huw Bennett. He proved one of Wales’ best forwards in the World Cup and will be difficult to dislodge, Rees struggling to get his place back in the side
And whatever form James Hook may show for new club Perpignan – and he made an encouraging debut against Toulouse at the weekend – his form was so poor in the World Cup while Priestland impressed
everyone that the Scarlets player is nailed down for the No 10 spot.
Hook, along with Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne, won’t be available against Australia because the match is outside the agreed international window so their new French clubs are not obliged to release
But Gatland is a Priestland man, he admires his balance, his game management and the way he brings Jamie Roberts into the action so you can forget about Hook or Stephen Jones being the outside half
going into the Six Nations.
How unfortunate for Newport Gwent Dragons.
After all the hard work put in to make the ceremonial opening of the new Bisley Stand a success the weather ruined it.
Everything was in place to make the eve of Bonfire Night game against Cardiff Blues a sparkling success. Gary Teichmann and Rod Snow were flown in from South Africa and Canada, respectively, Max
Boyce was to perform the opening ceremony, Richard Parks, that mountaineer extraordinaire, was in attendance and World Cup stars Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau would have been there, too.
But the heavens opened, down came the deluge and the pitch couldn’t cope – no pitch anywhere could have – and parts of it resembled a lake. As Snow said, it was heartbreaking. What a shame for Tony
Brown and Martyn Hazell who funded the building of the new stand with all its facilities, most of them very grand indeed.
Despite the efforts of so many, with the Celtic Manor supplying equipment and their chief executive Dylan Matthews, also a Dragons director, even taking his turn with a brush, there was just too
much water on the pitch.
Less than 24 hours later Newport played on it, rubbing salt into the wounds.
The Dragons-Blues match will be played at a later date but the occasion won’t be the same.
That, unfortunately, is lost.