Now, to deal with The Tackle (note capitals).
Nineteen minutes in, off the back of a lineout, Welsh captain Sam Warburton tackled Vincent Clerc. He lifted Clerc up, lost his grip or dropped him, and Clerc came down on his neck and/or upper body.
Warburton was sent off. Wales were by far the better team, but lost, agonisingly, by a point.
The relevant law of rugby is Law 10 (4) (j). It was inserted last December, and reads:
Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.
Back in 2009, the IRB sent out a directive to referees and other stakeholders about tip-tackles. You can read it HERE.
The crucial part for dealing with Sam Warburton's case is this:
The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player’s safety. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.
As soon as Warburton dropped, or lost his grip on, Clerc, he was in deep trouble. It's worth pointing out that this does not tell referees to work backwards from a red card, as I understand has been suggested; it says that that approach had been tried, had failed, and that instead of that approach, referees were to give red cards.
So, was it a freak, a completely inconsistent one-off refereeing decision?
Unfortunately, no. So far this RWC, there have been more citings for tip-tackles than any other kind of offence. The four have been Lekso Gugava of Georgia - decision HERE; Dominiko Waqaniburotu of Fiji - HERE; Sukanaialu Hufanga of Tonga - HERE; and Fabrice Estebanez of France - HERE.
In each of the last three cases, the referee had seen the offence, but had not sent the player off. In each case, the referee was told by the Judicial Officer that he was wrong not to send the player off.
When you realise that the referee in Gugava was Alain Rolland, you realise just how significant this is; especially as Rolland has given a straight red for this in the recent past to Florian Fritz. In that case, he had not seen the offence; but referees were left in no doubt whatsoever that if they saw a tip-tackle, they should reach for the red card.
Four cases, and in each one the IRB made it clear that they believed that a tip-tackle should be a straight red. There is a clear crack-down on; and it would seem to be an international one, given Justin Tipuric's citing for this offence in the Munster-Ospreys game last Saturday.
Unfortunately, given all of the above, Sam Warburton could probably not have picked a worse time to get done for this offence, nor a worse match. As soon as the Frenchman came down shoulders-first, it was always likely to be a red card.
It is a real pity; but the signposts were there.
Update; Warburton got a three-week ban. I'll go through the decision, as soon as I have it.