Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

17th June 2014 06:51

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Jaco Peyper sends off Owen Farrell NZ v Eng June 2014

Wrong decision: Owen Farrell's yellow card

Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly assortment of spat dummies, ejected toys and soiled nappies.

This week we will mostly be wrinkling our noses at bad cards and other weekend observations.

Start with the cards. Those awarded to Canada's Jebb Sinclair and Owen Farrell are the ones under the spotlight.

During the commentary pre-amble to the Scotland-Canada game, it was noted that Mike Fraser had recently returned from a spell further down the refereeing ranks after some wonky decisions.

It is safe to say the red card could well see him back down there.

It has been mentioned in these columns already this week, and the link given some airtime.

Sinclair's reaction as the steam pressure begins to build in his head during his prowl on the touchline is about as perfect as it gets: "Who made that ******** call?"

Here's the incident - and as a benchmark, here's the elbow/forearm lead from Bismarck du Plessis which was deemed only yellow card worthy a year or so ago.

Du Plessis' at least fulfills the criteria for dangerous play - reckless, and in direct contravention with law 10.4(a), which says "A player must not strike an opponent with the fist or arm, including elbow, shoulder, head or knees." Subsequent regulation 10.5(a) makes it pretty clear you are likely to be in at least yellow-card territory. Du Plessis lifted his forearm and his elbow dug itself into the fleshy part of Liam Messam's neck. Strike.

But I just cannot see where Sinclair even struck Ruaridh Jackson, which is the critical point. Sinclair dropped his shoulder, his elbow was at his side.

He used the front part of his elbow - where the forearm muscles join onto the bone and triceps - to push Jackson away once contact had been made, but the initial meeting point was made with Sinclair running in a classic half-bent shoulder forward position, centre of gravity lowered for maximum impact, elbow and other hard body parts tucked safely into his side. Jackson got injured because his tackle-shape was all wrong, not because of Sinclair's action.

Fraser's dialogue was also interesting. Sadly we cannot hear the other half of the conversation, but Fraser was absolutely the man leading the campaign for the red card in it, all the TMO had to do was say 'yes'.

So that answers Sinclair's question. As for the question of who would have won had this aberration of a call not been made... well, Canada had a penalty almost in front of the posts, two behind and with five to go and looking good value for their win. That's a tough pill to swallow.



On to Owen Farrell's card. Chris Robshaw, and indeed my neighbour where I was watching it, were both steaming about the decision to yellow card Owen Farrell for lying on the ball, insisting that the crumpled heap of bodies was a collapsed maul and therefore England should have had a scrum because Jerome Kaino took it in.

Crazily, the only online highlights I can find have none of the incident in it, but it's pretty clear cut. Farrell tackles Kaino, an All Black joins the two of them and an England player then also joins to stop the forward motion.

The IRB's definition of a maul is: "A maul begins when a player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents, and one or more of the ball carrier's team mates bind on the ball carrier.

A maul therefore consists, when it begins, of at least three players, all on their feet; the ball carrier and one player from each team. All the players involved must be caught in or bound to the maul and must be on their feet and moving towards a goal line. Open play has ended."

Law 17.6 (b) then says : " A maul ends unsuccessfully if the ball becomes unplayable or collapses (not as a result of foul play)", while 17.6 (g) says: "If the ball carrier in a maul goes to ground, including being on one or both knees or sitting, the referee orders a scrum unless the ball is immediately available."

In this instance, all four of the players - Farrell, Kaino and the two others - crashed to ground and the ball was not immediately playable. That it was not so because Farrell had fallen on top of Kaino should have been immaterial, it was no longer a tackle, it was a maul. England should have had the scrum and Farrell should have stayed on the pitch.



As for the rest of the weekend's action, the most noteworthy displays were those of Canada, England and New Zealand. The less said about the Melbourne snore the better, while Wales once again look stale and uninspired. South Africa continue to make progress under Heyneke Meyer and with the brilliant Willie le Roux as effervescent as ever, Vern Cotter must be wondering what he has got himself into in Scotland and Ireland and Argentina were both pretty par for their courses. Argentina do look to have some promising young players coming through though.

Canada were real eye-openers though. They have paid a lot of attention to sevens as a means of developing good young players and enhancing the skills on the back of a primarily amateur internal structure and it showed - at times in Toronto, you wondered who the professionals with all their skill-honing time were.

As for New Zealand: it was a strategy worth banking on, but the reliance on the past generation might be the Kiwis' undoing. Eight of the starting XV on Saturday were over 30, several others were not far away. Previous New Zealand teams would have built on that scintillating third quarter to run in two or three more tries.

This time they shipped two. For the second week in a row they were alarmingly slow out of the blocks and if the reaction mid-game was better, that will take nothing away from the concern about the slow starts and late drop-off.

What could be more concerning for Kiwis though, is the way the Junior teams have fallen away. The IRB World Championship used to be a junior AB procession, these days it's becoming a rarity to see them even in the final.

I am not predicting a huge fall from grace for the All Blacks here, but a highly influential former All Black posted a long question on social media this week entitled 'where are we going wrong?' lamenting the lessening of the once-endless procession of brilliant talents bursting through the U20 scene. There was much debate.

Dare I speculate that there is a wavering of confidence down under?

Loose Pass compiled by former Planet Rugby Editor Danny Stephens

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