In 1823, William Webb Ellis first picked up the ball in his arms and ran with it. And for the next 156 years forwards have been trying to work out why. - Tasker Watkins VC, LJ.

Monday, September 26, 2011

RWC Part IV - Todd Clever.

I'm glad to say that, after much digging, I've finally been able to find the decisions from the citings in the RWC.

So, to deal with the one on Todd Clever, the USA flanker. He was cited for a dangerous tackle - a high tackle - on a Russian player. In fairness, there have been worse seen; but, given the direction about any high tackles being serious foul play worthy of a citing, he was always going to be cited.

The decision is HERE.

What I want to deal with in this one is inconsistency. It was His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett heard this case. Now, the learned judge is one of the most experienced people hearing citing cases around, and has done much to develop what nascent system of precedent there is in rugby discipline. However, there's a major inconsistency in this.

A "compelling" feature that meant that Clever received no suspension was that

Aged 28, and having played so many high level matches in a variety of competitions, he is very experienced. He has operated at a high level in a position which is naturally confrontational, but has never been in any trouble before.

Now, I've talked about this before in relation to inconsistency. In Quinlan, the comment was that because Quinlan was "old enough and experienced enough to know better", his experience was an aggravating factor; in Schalk Burger's case, two months later, having 50 caps was a mitigating factor.

However, the real contrast is the learned judge's decision in Paul O'Connell's case. O'Connell, too had never received a red card, was experienced, and played in about as abrasive a position as one gets; he had one suspension only in the course of his rugby-playing career, of two weeks.

However, this was not considered a mitigating factor by the learned judge. Instead, he considered that being an iconic figure warranted a lecture somewhat reminiscent of a prefect wigging a schoolboy who had the cheek to contest an accusation.

It is no good for the image of the game nor indeed for his own reputation and someone of his iconic stature should have exercised much better self control.

The problem, again, is consistency. Either experience is mitigating for everyone, or it's mitigating for no-one. But it is entirely inconsistent, and unfair, to knock time off a suspension for one player on the grounds of experience and then add time on in the case of another player; all the more so when the learned judge so doing is the same person.

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