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Why Are Rugby Players Allowed To Get Away With Consistent Fouls?
Posted Apr 15, 2011 by Shaun Edwards
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I read an intriguing article in the Independent the other by the excellent Peter Bills that raised the question of the discipline of modern professional rugby players, and their apparent inability to abide by the rules. One of the most favourable features of the modern game on TV is the fact that the referee is mic’d up – as such it means that those unsure about the game are able to learn more by seeing why penalities and fouls are called. However, is this really the reason, or is it simply the fact that the players themselves are not totally certain of the rules?
Compare the situation to a game of cricket: how often during a test match does Aleem Dar have to tell Graeme Swann to pitch the ball forward, or that he’s not allowed to run half-way down the track before letting the ball go? Or how often do you see Alastair Cook using his helmet to catch the ball after it’s bowled? Perhaps in the week’s Champion’s League match you may see John Terry pick the ball up and charge towards the Manchester United goal, but I doubt it.
One of the primary arguments is not that the players don’t know the rules, but that the referees are simply justifying their decisions. If this actually the case, then the system should be removed. The referees are there because they are qualified and should be respected as they are in all sports (except football, obviously). If they choose to explain a decision, then that is fine, but it should not be considered a requirement.
The other main reason – and clearly the more likely one – is that the players are simply continuing to push their luck to see how much they can get away with, and the referees are being lenient in allowing them to do so. This is even more unacceptable than any of them having to justify decisions. For this practise to have occurred as often as it does, it is apparent that coaches have been instructing their players to push the game to it’s limits. Whilst a lot of others sportsmen do the same thing (cricketers seldom ‘walk’, and footballers are renowned for their dishonesty), rugby is the only sport where it is allowed to happen. Footballers are booked for diving, and cricketers are fairly regularly docked part of their fee for inappropriate behaviour.
If they wish to uphold a more honest impression of their match, then rugby’s governing bodies will need to step in and ensure that referees uphold more discipline and potentially become more active in issuing both sin-bin time as well as potential cards. Otherwise, it has a danger of joining football in the ranks of poorly disciplined sports. With all the controversy that has recently overshadowed football in light of the ‘Rooneygate’ incident, it is something that they will want to carefully think about.