I shook my head so much after the Payne sending off it nearly gave me a migraine.
Absolutely no way was it anything like a sending off offence, I thought, and surely the ref was swayed by the sight of a player being stretchered off the field.
Now in the calmer times of a few days later, well, I STILL don’t think it warranted a red, but I can see why Garces gave it.
Can we look at these decisions objectively? Is it possible to remove our allegiances towards one team or indeed our dislike of the opposition from the equation?
Well I’ll tell you this…the uniformity of the opinion from the English media certainly didn’t help. I saw very little in their reactions to suggest they wouldn’t have a completely different view were the roles reversed.
Let’s at least try to be objective. Take two rugby players A and B who play full back for opposite sides. A puts up a high ball and goes to chase it. B has it in his sights and goes to catch it.
Both are entitled to go for the ball, but B has a distinct advantage in that he is facing the ball every step of the way.
A has kicked it in such a way that he can have a shot at retrieving it, but if he is to make it clear that he is keeping his eyes on the ball as it travels, there is no way in the world he can know what B is going to do.
Stop the frame right there.
This is all legal so far. But isn’t it also a potential disaster waiting to happen?
Well, where we stopped it, the worst case scenario is that the two players collide, never the safest when both are at full tilt. But then player B takes the added measure of JUMPING for the ball.
Please note that the jump is HIS choice, and in the sport of rugby union, particularly at the highest level, he won’t be merely concerned with catching the ball, he will also have a mind to protecting it for his side when he gets to the ground.
Trouble is, when your focus is on those two things, you tend to think less about how exactly you get from mid-air to the ground. And if your eyes are on the ball, you probably won’t notice that player A who initially kicked it is also looking back at it.
[update - as pointed out by @paddylogan13 on twitter, there is also the added dimension of player A raising his knee as he jumps]
Of COURSE I get the whole idea of player safety and that it is paramount. But for me, a player leaving his feet for a high catch has to take some of the responsibility for what happens next - instead what we are saying is that once you jump, the laws of the game are providing a protective cocoon around the area in front of you.
Clearly the Garces decision has set a precedent that it’s not enough for the original kicker of the ball to try and keep his eyes on it in order to catch it. So in future, either don’t kick it or if you must, rather than contest the catch you should stop a few yards away from where it’s going to land and aim to tackle the catcher (plus if he jumps then you must wait until he lands)???
I am very happy that responsibility for legislating for such things is not up to me. I can feel that migraine coming on again after writing this post.
But there has to be a way of dealing with this area of the game otherwise we’ll be back here again in a big match before not too long. JLP