In essence, it's zero tolerance; if it goes high, it's a high tackle, and intention has nothing to do with it. We saw it in action in the recent Ireland-England game (and it's interesting to note that the commentators on the game didn't appear to know about it). And, in what may seem like a rare departure, I would consider it a very good day's work by the IRB. It's clear, concise, workable, makes absolute sense and looks after players and the game.
But the most interesting thing about the memorandum from the point of view of this blog is this part:
An illegal high tackle involving a stiff arm or swinging arm to the head of the opponent, with no regard to the player’s safety, bears all the hallmarks of an action which should result in a red card or a yellow card being seriously considered.
Referees and Citing Commissioners should not make their decisions based on what they consider was the intention of the offending player. Their decision should be based on an objective assessment (as per Law 10.4(e)) of the overall circumstances of the tackle.
Now, this is what I touched on when I asked what constitutes a red card offence for a citing hearing. Here, for the first time, we have an answer; as far as swinging arm or stiff tackles to the head are concerned, we can say with certainty that these are red card offences.
The reason this is so interesting is that it gives certainty in a citing hearing. If a player knows that what he has been charged with is a red card offence, then it crosses the threshold for a correct citing. So, it should be cited whenever it happens. There is, for the first time, clarity and certainty in the disciplinary system; do this, and not only you will get done for it, but you'll have to plead and look for mitigation.
And that's a big departure, but a very welcome one. Because once the players know what they will definitely be cited for, they will not do it - and fewer high, swinging tackles is something everyone wants. Once the players' legal advisers know what will definitely be punished, then they can give definite advice to their clients in disciplinary hearings, and the disciplinary system becomes more certain, more consistent, less arbitrary and less open to challenge.
Certainty and clarity are hallmarks of a good disciplinary system. At least in one small area, rugby now has that. It is to be welcomed, and should be expanded.