Planet Rugby

IRB must show greater consistency

15th November 2012 13:16

Share:

Simmons thomson box

A tale of two hearings: Rob Simmons and Adam Thomson

Rugby fans flocked to condemn the inconsistent disciplinary hearing judgements handed down to Rob Simmons and Adam Thomson this week.

Rugby has been building up to a moment like this for quite some time. Defining a fair suspension that will satisfy all parties is rare, but in the cases of Rob Simmons and Adam Thomson, the results of both hearings have been fiercely contested by both fans and media.

Simmons was originally handed a 14-week suspension by the IRB for a tip tackle of France's Yannick Nyanga. It was late, dangerous and off the ball and if the officials on the field had been able to identify Simmons as the perpetrator he may well have been sent off.

Despite having his suspension cut down by six weeks for "exemplary previous disciplinary record and his conduct at the hearing", Simmons' ban however remains at eight weeks, nearly double the average for tip-tackle bans over the past two years based on the following examples:

One week - Francois Hougaard
Two weeks - Cooper Vuna, Carl Hayman
Three weeks - Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric
Four weeks - GJ Van Der Veize, Steve Shingler, John Afoa
Five weeks - Digby Ioane
Seven weeks - Bradley Davies

Deciding whether the Simmons tackle on Nyanga was obviously worse than any of those listed above comes down to the position of the player's head and the level of force into the ground, but when the average punishment is around four weeks, to originally hand out a suspension of more than triple that time period is hard to understand.

The recklessness of the tackle is not in doubt, purely the length of the suspension.

Tip-tackling remains an area of contention over a year after it was brought under the spotlight following Sam Warburton's sending off in the Rugby World Cup semi-final. It will continue to be examined ahead of the Lions tour next year, with British fans still infuriated at the lack of justice against Keven Mealamu and Tana Umaga.

Hours after the Simmons hearing, Adam Thomson was given a one-week ban for "stamping or trampling" on the head of Alasdair Strokosch, resulting a similar outpouring of dismay on Twitter except this time for the leniency of the punishment.

Thomson was originally sin-binned after making contact with the head of Strokosch whilst the Scot was stuck at the bottom of the ruck. It was not excessively violent, but there was contact, enough for Thomson to be punished.

With a previously unblemished disciplinary record at Test level and lawyer Owen Eastwood as part of his defence team, Thomson protested his innocence stating that the incident was "unintentional", but the footage is difficult to ignore.

His ban remains at a single week rather than falling in the two-to-nine week lower-end range normally associated with stamping bans, of which the five week ban given to John Hayes for stamping on Cian Healy's face back in 2009 is an example.

Thomson's defence was clearly effective but when you strip away the context and watch the footage, one week appears remarkably light. Any time a boot makes contact with an opponent's head, you are playing with fire.

Suspensions need to be logical and fair, which is where the case of Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu comes into the equation. The Samoan was given a three-week suspension last season for tweeting about Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell.

The balance is wrong if a player can be given a longer ban for tweeting about another player as opposed to stamping on another player's head.

By maintaining the accuracy of the judicial system, the IRB can avoid the derision of the last 24 hours and prevent situations where CEO Brett Gosper has to announce on Twitter that the sanction against Thomson is under review.

Consistency is important and the IRB have to be careful with the precedents they set.

If Simmons eight-week ban is now the benchmark, how big will the next tip-tackle punishment be? And if players know that they will only receive one or two weeks bans for stamping on players' heads, then how much more dangerous will the game become?

Questionable decisions are emerging from disciplinary hearings far too often, to the long-term detriment of the IRB and its member unions' reputations.

In this high-profile month for the sport, greater accuracy is essential.

By Ben Coles

@bencoles_

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand vs AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Preview
Argentina vs South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Preview
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 22
Pumas vs GriquasPumas vs Griquas Preview
Saturday , August 23
Blue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
Western Province vs Lions17:05
Sharks vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , August 23
Northland vs WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Preview
Counties Manukau vs OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Preview
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu vs Auckland14:35
Bay Of Plenty vs Tasman16:35
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato vs Taranaki19:35
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury vs Northland19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Friday , August 22
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Currie Cup
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
Cheetahs 34 - 27 GriquasCheetahs vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Otago 28 - 14 North Harbour
Wellington 25 - 37 WaikatoWellington vs Waikato Report
Canterbury 48 - 9 AucklandCanterbury vs Auckland Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Friday , August 15
Sharks 34 - 17 PumasSharks vs Pumas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Southland 34 - 23 Bay Of Plenty
Thursday , August 14
Taranaki 9 - 9 Counties ManukauTaranaki vs Counties Manukau Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 9
Griquas 24 - 31 SharksGriquas vs Sharks Report
Lions 41 - 13 Blue BullsLions vs Blue Bulls Report
Pumas 28 - 21 CheetahsPumas vs Cheetahs Report
Friday , August 8
Eastern Province Kings 16 - 35 Western ProvinceEastern Province Kings vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
Super Rugby
Saturday , August 2
Waratahs 33 - 32 CrusadersWaratahs vs Crusaders Report
Saturday , July 26
Crusaders 38 - 6 SharksCrusaders vs Sharks Report
Waratahs 26 - 8 BrumbiesWaratahs vs Brumbies Report
Saturday , July 19
Brumbies 32 - 30 ChiefsBrumbies vs Chiefs Report
Sharks 31 - 27 HighlandersSharks vs Highlanders Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00