Law Discussion: That red card

Sun, 15 Sep 2013 21:26
Large romain poite Large romain poite nz v sa Large romain poite nz v sa2 Large bismarck   carter630

We look at the two sanctionary cards against Bismarck du Plessis in the match between New Zealand and South Africa at Eden Park on Saturday.

We look at the two sanctionary cards against Bismarck du Plessis in the match between New Zealand and South Africa at Eden Park on Saturday.

Sports differ because the rules/laws differ. Those rules/laws are the playing constitution of the sport, what makes each sport distinctive. That is why the rules/laws are sacrosanct. That's why there are penalties for breaking them and especially harsh penalties for players who deliberately break them in a serious way.

Rugby football, which is a unique sport with its unique set of laws, is to be played according to those laws and match officials and players are required to act in accordance with those laws. When a player plays outside of them, the match official must act. If a player plays within the laws, the officials are not required to act, unless there is a score.

On Saturday at Eden Park in Auckland Bismarck du Plessis received two yellow cards. The referee believed that his actions were serious enough to punish him in a serious fashion. Let's look at some aspects of the sanctions of Du Plessis.

Before we do, let's look at the matter of injury. Definition. A sports injury is any bodily damage sustained during participation in competitive or non-competitive athletic activity. This can occur in most sports - perhaps not as frequently in bowls, golf, darts and billiards-related games, which may or may not be considered 'athletic activity'! According to the Laws of the Game foul play is a defined type of action. The injury is an exacerbating circumstance only if the cause of the injury is illegal. Injury does not equate to foul play

Rugby football is a contact sport. Its Law allow tackling, pushing, jumping, handing off, charging into - all activities which could cause injury. The player who plays rugby, contracts to be involved in those possibly harmful activities. But he does not contract to play outside of the Laws of the Game. If those activities are carried out legally there is no sanction, even if a player is injured.

1. The tackle on Carter.

Morné Steyn misses a kick at goal. Daniel Carter of New Zealand drops out, the ball bounces and Tony Woodcock passes the ball to Aaron Smith, who sends out a long, looping pass to Carter. Carter faces the coming ball and clearly cannot see Bismarck du Plessis approaching from his blind side. Carter catches the ball and Du Plessis tackles Carter heavily.

The referee immediately blows his whistle and much aggression breaks out between the two sides, none of it centred on Du Plessis.

When the referee blew his whistle, he indicated a penalty to New Zealand. When the playground pulling and pushing was over, Jean de Villiers, the South African captain, said to the referee: "What was wrong with the tackle?" (A fair question.)

The referee said: "Height, shoulder, no arms."

He then told the two captains that when he blew his whistle players had to stop. And he told the TMO that he had made his decision about the tackle but asked him if there was foul play afterwards - that is in the squabbling.

The TMO does as he is asked and looks at the squabbling where he can detect no foul play.

There is no examination of the tackle. The referee does not examine any replay of the tackle either. He calls Du Plessis to him and says: "Height and no arms".He shows him a yellow card. Du Plessis is shocked and goes to the sin bin.

Some points:

i. Du Plessis was not offside. There had been no ruck or maul and only New Zealanders had played the ball.

ii. Carter had the ball. It was not tackling a man without the ball.

iii. A high tackle is defined by law.

(e) 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

Du Plessis did not tackle Carter above the line of Carter's shoulders, nor did Du Plessis attempt to do so.

iii. Not using the arms is also laid down by the Laws.

(g) Dangerous charging. A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without trying to grasp that player.
Sanction: Penalty kick

Du Plessis's right arm was wrapped around Carter's back. His left arm and hand were across Carter's chest, his left hand touching the ball.

He used his arms. He was not guilty of not using his arms.

When Du Plessis came back from the sin bin, the referee told him to use his arms in the tackle - which Du Plessis had in fact done.

2. Summary.

The reasons the referee gave for sending Du Plessis to the sin bin were wrong. It was a refereeing mistake. Mistakes happen but in this case it was so unnecessary. The referee had time to consult his assistants and the TMO and to look at the evidence on the big screen. He, an experienced Test referee, did none of those things but relied on his single impression in real time - and he was wrong.

The New Zealand players were also wrong to start a brawl. It may just be that the referee and the New Zealand players were startled by seeing the hero, one of the greatest players in the history of rugby football, knocked to the ground and injured. But the player must be found guilty of an infringement in law and not because Carter was hurt in an action that is legal under Law.

There should not have been a yellow card against Du Plessis.

3. The charge into Messam

In the second incident Du Plessis gets a pass from Ruan Pienaar and has the ball under his left arm as he charges at Liam Messam of New Zealand. Both players are upright. Du Plessis lifts his right arm bent at the elbow and this elbow and forearm make contact with Messam, sending him reeling backwards. The assistant referee reports possible foul play and - this time - the referee refers the incident to the TMO. The replays confirm what Du Plessis did and he was shown a second yellow card.

(a) Punching or striking. A player must not strike an opponent with the fist or arm, including the elbow, shoulder, head or knee(s).
Sanction: Penalty kick

That is what Du Plessis was guilty of.

Yellow card?

(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.

It is up to the referee to determine which option he will use of (a) talking to, (b) warning and yellow card and (c) red card. In this case he opted for the middle course.

As a matter of interest John Smit acted similarly against the French captain, Jérôme Thion, when South Africa played France at Stade de France in 2005. After the match Smit was cited, found guilty and suspend for six weeks, which suggests that the IRB regarded it as a red-card offence.

4. Yellow + yellow = red

This is a matter of law.

(b) A player who has been cautioned and temporarily suspended who then commits a second cautionable offence within the Foul Play Law must be sent-off.

That is what the referee did.

5. Inquiry

When a player is sent off, as Du Plessis was, the IRB's regulations require that an inquiry take place. It serves two purposes. It gives the sent-off players a chance to defend himself against the charge of foul play and the disciplinary committee a chance to assess the validity of the sending off and the extent of any further action, such as a suspension, that is to be taken.

If the reason for Du Plessis's sending off was for a second yellow card and the first one was found to be a wrong decision, then one would expect no further action against him, unless the judicial inquiry decides to examine the nature of the second yellow card, which would appear spiteful in view of what had happened.

* Here is a clip of THAT tackle!

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