SANZAAR pushing ‘hard’ to implement controversial law ahead of World Rugby vote

Colin Newboult
Jordie Barrett after being sent off for the Hurricanes during Super Rugby Pacific win over the Reds in 2024.

Jordie Barrett after being sent off for the Hurricanes during Super Rugby Pacific win over the Reds in 2024.

SANZAAR are pushing for the 20-minute red card to be introduced worldwide with the motion set to be voted on in May.

Chief executive Brendan Morris attended World Rugby’s recent ‘Shape of the Game’ conference and put forward the controversial proposal, which has been recommended for a vote at the governing body’s upcoming council meeting.

Should it pass, which requires 75 per cent approval, a global trial will be enacted and, if that is successful, it could become law.

Six Nations concerns

They are meeting resistance, though, particularly from the Six Nations countries, who have purportedly always been sceptical.

“The [Shape of the Game] workshop made some recommendations, one of which was that the 20-minute red card would go to a global trial,” Morris told Stuff.

“In the short term, the Six Nations bloc came back to us and said: ‘Well, we’d prefer to go to a closed trial and trial it and then come back and have another look’.

“But where we ended up is that the recommendation through to World Rugby’s council meeting on May 9 is that we’re looking to go to a global trial.

“For that to be accepted, you’ve got to get a 75% majority vote of the voting members of council.”

It is a law which has received big support in the southern hemisphere, who believe that red cards for tackle technique problems – rather than genuine foul play – are hampering the sport.

Dismissals for contact with the head are quite often unintentional, which has led to an outcry from the Antipodean nations, but there are worries that the 20-minute red card could result in more concussion issues.

Due to the current severity of the sanction, coaches from grassroots to the elite game are taking measures to teach safer tackling, but that may change if this is enforced.

Morris disagrees, however, and insists that they will make sure it acts as enough of a deterrent for teams and players that transgress.

“When I go back to the whole-of-the-game narrative, the introduction of the 20-minute cards is not going backwards, but it’s about getting everything on-field and off-field aligned,” he said.

“The sanctions off-field may to go up a little bit to make it more of a deterrent.”

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Backed by fans

Super Rugby has stated its intention to be more ‘fan-centric’ this season and, according to Morris, that is one of the driving factors behind their move.

The SANZAAR boss states that southern hemisphere supporters are thoroughly against the idea of game-lasting red cards and are backing the change.

“Look, it’s no secret that we’ve been driving this pretty hard,” Morris said. “The game really needs a reset and there’s a broad acknowledgment around that.

“The biggest issue I think that we’ve got in the game at the moment is we’ve got to get the balance between safety and spectacle.

“And I’m happy for you to use those words because we were very clear about what we wanted up there [in London].

“It’s not about one overriding the other, it’s about having a balanced approach to the game.

“Player welfare is still our number one priority. However, we’ve got to start looking at this game with a fan-obsessed lens.

“We’re in the entertainment business and we’re not just competing against the NRL and AFL, we’re competing against Netflix and Taylor Swift, and the beach and the movies.

“We’ve got to be more open-minded about what do they [supporters] want from the game? And they’re telling us that 15 on 15 is really important for them.”

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