Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

22nd April 2013 14:27

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POC v Kerney kick

To cite or not to cite, that is the question

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with precedents, salary caps and the sad end of a refereeing career...

Paul O'Connell will this weekend be able to continue his late-season assault on a Lions Test jersey, when Munster head to Montpellier in the Heineken Cup semi-final.

Few can deny his barnstorming performance against Harlequins was one of the individual performances of the season to date and many will be looking forward to seeing him square up to old sparring partner Jamie Cudmore.

But equally few will be able to deny that O'Connell's wild swing with his foot at the ball, upon which Leinsterman Dave Kearney's head was practically resting at the time, probably should have meant he was cooling his heels in the stand.

Certainly Cudmore, who clearly had the forthcoming O'Connell reunion on his mind when he tweeted: 'How long for a kick in the head these days?' was in the pro-citing lobby.

Make no meal of it, this was not O'Connell taking Kearney out. The ball was there and O'Connell definitely hit Kearney's head with his shin while his foot went for the ball. No malice.

But at what point is perceived malice any different from a blatant neglect of the duty of care? Is a duty of care even a part of rugby?

It has to be. Rugby is too much in the public light to be able to accept the older-fashioned 'you know the risks when you walk on the pitch' attitudes. Well-trained athletes know the difference between a cheap shot made to look like an accident, an accident that doesn't need to happen and a genuine accident, and know how to avoid the first two.

What precedent the lack of a citing for O'Connell sets is for a grey area to continue to exist, whereby players of all levels and all ages might be able to get away with cheap shots by making them look like accidents, while others can be simply reckless in how they go into many forms of contact, thereby increasing the risk of serious injury.

A citing would have eradicated this. Every player would know that you just couldn't aim to kick the ball when an opponent's head is near it, every player would understand that taking that risk to the opponent's safety would have repercussions if the risk backfired, as it clearly did in O'Connell's case

He should have been cited, he should have been in the stands. Then again, now we'll see how much O'Connell and Cudmore really understand by the term duty of care when they come face to face again. You can't deny that's an exciting prospect!


The salary cap is newly under debate again in France, as are a lot of other aspects of the recruitment process with the opening of the 'transfer window' this weekend.

The general trend this year, in contrast to many years past, is one of consolidation. While some of the lower clubs have been wheeling and dealing, the top clubs are being rather more picky with their signings. The money on offer in Japan is steering a few Aussies and Kiwis away from France, while the foreshadowed exodus in the wake of the Jonathan Sexton transfer has not materialized.

But the French can afford to be picky. The Top 14 salary cap is now frozen at EUR10m for the next two years, giving the French clubs around twice as much cash to spend on salaries as their English or Celtic counterparts.

There is not long to go before another round of grumpiness from British and Irish teams about French riches and their own domestic restrictions you feel... especially if we get Clermont v Toulon in the European Cup Final.


Finally, spare a thought for Welsh referee Hugh Watkins, who has resigned even before the WRU meted out a 12-week ban for his angry tweet over the appalling tackle in the Fiji v Wales Hong Kong Sevens final.

"Sorry that's a shocker. Had to be red no other option. We need referees to be consistent in this," tweeted Watkins after he watched Ilai Tinai piledrive Lee Watkins headfirst into the ground. Once again, few could deny he was right.

Watkins has been around for yonks. He's a good official with a good record of long service who was eyeing a well-earned semi-retirement spot in the TMO box. Yet he was not even given the time of day by the IRB, who more or less instructed the WRU to take Watkins to task.

The WRU also failed to recognize Watkins' outstanding long and faultless service giving him a ban the same length as that copped by Jerome Fillol for spitting in Peter Stringer's face. Watkins, disgusted by the whole scenario, resigned for life just before the hearing.

12 weeks? For a tweet? A tweet that reflected public opinion, stated an opinion and not once made any kind of personal attack on anyone involved in the incident beyond telling it as it was: a shocker.

Just for the sake of consistency, we feel we should now challenge the WRU and officially wonder what Adam Jones will get for his tweet of support, which was also a distinctly welcome instance of telling it as it is: 'Maybe If the WRU worried about themselves and the regions sorting their crap out and not banning a ref for tweeting we may get somewhere!'

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

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