SAZAAR’s 20-minute red card claims are ‘unfounded’ as French Rugby back ‘permanent expulsion’

Jared Wright
Referee Jaco Peyper shows a red card during the 2023 Rugby World Cup and FFR vice president Jean Marc LHERMET.

Referee Jaco Peyper shows a red card during the 2023 Rugby World Cup and FFR vice president Jean Marc LHERMET.

The French Rugby Federation have made their stance on 20-minute red cards clear and hopes that World Rugby will not “impose” the controversial law.

The SANZAAR nations—Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa—are believed to favour making the 20-minute red card law permanent after trials in the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby Pacific.

However, the Six Nations unions disagree and are against the law being introduced, with FFR vice-president Jean-Marc Lhermet making France’s position clear in an interview with Midi Olympique.

Red cards don’t kill games

Lhermet says that the FFR and LNR – should not be the governing body for the French club leagues – are all in agreement that the law should not be introduced.

“The big southern nations are pushing for the twenty-minute red card, arguing that sending off a player has too big an impact on the final result and is likely to cause people to lose interest,” he told the French publication.

“During the first meeting, we opposed this measure with Emmanuel Eschalier (general director of the LNR). We consulted the players’ union, the coaches’ union, the referees. The French position is quite unanimous: we are against this development. It is even an outcry from the nations of the North.

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“Out of 160 matches played in Tier 1 since 2021, 30 have seen red cards: the numerically inferior team has lost in 60% of cases, which is very far from what we are told. It was then announced at the meeting, notably through the nations of the South. Ultimately, the impact of the red card is therefore not systematic. Their argument of the spectacle being killed by a red card does not seem to us to be founded.”

Lhermet adds that the fear of receiving a red card or a suspension has worked as a deterrent for dangerous tackles and that introducing a 20-minute red card would trivialize the card.

“Fear of the police works,” he added.

“Since we increased the level of sanctions for unfair gestures, dangerous tackles or tackles in the air have almost disappeared. Here, we are therefore afraid that the trivialization of the red card will ultimately lead to this type of behavior reappearing.

“In people’s minds, a red card means permanent expulsion. We, therefore, risk losing the general public along the way. From a more philosophical point of view, and within the team sport par excellence, we also regret that the collective impact of a red card disappears: historically, the fault of a player has always had an impact, good or bad moreover, on the team in its entirety.”

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Player safety concerns

The vice president adds that the first priority of the northern hemisphere nations is player safety.

“The “pros” argue that a posteriori, the sanctions against the excluded player (therefore his suspension) could be reinforced. Why not, but in our opinion, the meaning of the story is first and foremost the protection and safety of the players,” he said.

“However, we know well that the deterrent effect of the red card has played a huge role in eradicating certain gestures: punches, dangerous tackles… And the fact that it has an impact on the collective result is also a lever to change behaviours. A 20-minute red card would not send a good message to players, educators, young people… There are more and more “reds” being handed out, that’s a fact. Perhaps we need to think because some people question physical integrity and others do not. But the answer is not that.”

Lhermet concludes that he hopes that World Rugby will not force the law onto all the teams and they have the ability to ditch the trial now if they wanted to.

“Already, World Rugby can decide to abandon everything but I don’t really believe in it. The body can also choose to test the twenty-minute red card with teams from the northern hemisphere, during a summer tour of the French XV or for the next Under-20 Cup, for example,” he said.

“Can it, finally, offer us an exemption on this fact or will it be imposed on us? I asked the question in a meeting but I have not yet had a precise answer…”

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