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Is it time to give the red card a red card?
By Andrew Bladon
In the past few weeks we have seen red cards brandished in some crucial games. Particularly Hogg in Cardiff and Payne in Belfast.
In almost every instant a red card has been used, the non-infringing side goes on to win, effectively handing victory to the opponent.
This ruins the game for the defending team, the people who offered good money to watch the match live and the thousands paying an interest at home.
I was in Cardiff when tens of thousands of Scots descended on the city to watch their team's last game of the Six Nations, which realistically ended after just 22 minutes.
Before the halftime whistle was blown most Scots were in the bars and the stadium was half empty. That struck me as waste of an £80+ ticket, and whatever costs associated with the humiliating journey to Wales.
This year's Heineken Cup is over for Ulster fans, as was the 2011 World Cup for the Welsh, all due to the brandishing of a red card.
In the majority of cases (with the exception of gouging, or deliberately targeting an individual player) a red card is given out for a moment of sheer stupidity, rather than a calculated or malicious attack.
In these cases would it not make more sense to punish the player after the match, rather than spoiling the game for everyone involved based on one players foolishness.
For example, penalise the player with a 10 minute sin bin (a good side should capitalise by ten points here alone) and then throw the book at them after the match.
With citing commissioners, ever-improving video angles and super slow motion cameras it is a much easier task to punish a player after a match than it was ten years ago.
By doing so we can keep crucial games competitive for 80 minutes, as well as forcing teams to show strength in depth in major tournaments by bringing out reserve players to cover the inevitable bans.
A hefty fine and increased suspension, potentially losing your place in the team, could arguably have a more punishing effect for modern professional players than sitting on the sidelines for 60 minutes.
Of course, this argument is redundant in amateur rugby where post match bans and fines are more difficult to administer, but certainly for the benefit of a great spectator sport red cards should only be handed out in the most extreme circumstances.