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.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

RWC Part XIV - Sam Warburton Hearing Decision

As already noted, Sam Warburton got three weeks for the tip-tackle on Vincent Clerc for which he was sent off.

The Decision is now available and can be read HERE.

The Judicial Officer (JO) was Christopher Quinlan QC, who dealt with the other cases in the RWC that I've already covered here. Suffice to say, it's therefore not all that surprising that the sentence was on exactly the same lines as the others, and covered largely the same ground.

It's also fair to say that there's universal sympathy for Sam Warburton, even from the JO. People know he didn't mean to land Clerc on his neck, and would never do it deliberately; it's just that the risks are so high that there has to be a deterrent, as the JO observed.

And that approach has spread. I've mentioned Justin Tipuric's citing; he also got three weeks for a more innocuous tackle in the Munster-Ospreys game (I'd link the decision but, thus far, it looks like the new RaboDirect Pro12 is keeping the old Magner's League policy of not publishing decisions). So, the crackdown is definitely on, and it's worldwide. If  the tackled player is lifted, and comes down anything other than arse-first, the tackler is in trouble.

If (God knows, stranger things have happened), there are any professional players or coaches reading this, once piece of advice I would definitely give them is this; don't lift in the tackle. Just don't; it's too easy for something to go wrong, and if it does, you're going off. Instead, go for what has been one of the most successful defensive strategies this RWC; chop, drop and steal. Go low, bring the ball-carrier down, and the next man in jackals the ball. Ironically, Wales, with Warburton, have been one of the very best at this; but Pocock and McCaw have been superb as well. There's a piece by Shaun Edwards of Wales from the Guardian HERE that's well worth a read on this.

But, there's no question; the crackdown on tip-tackles is on, and will be for the next few months. Those in the game would be well advised to plan on that basis.


  1. If people want, I can do a comparative analysis of the three tackles here. It could be interesting as a contrast; however, no-one should be under any illusions that the crackdown isn't on, because this decision makes it very clear that they have a policy and intend to follow it.

  2. Interesting. I've just got back from a County DC in England. We had a player dismissed for breach of 10(4)(j). We argued that since there was no evidence of "dropping" or "driving into the ground" (commonly referred to as spearing) there was no breach of the law. The DC agreed and the charge was dismissed.

    It's important to understand the law and the IRB guidance. Only the dropping or "spearing" tackles warrant a red card. Other "lifting" tackles fall to be dealt with under 10(4)(e) and would be a penalty or yellow at worst.

    Note that neither the law nor the guidance makes reference to "bringing the player to ground safely" which is a common misunderstanding of the law.

  3. Nacko, glad you find it interesting. There are references in the cases to the requirement to bring the player to ground safely. If you look at paragraph 32 of Tuitupou - - it more or less turns on the lack of efforts to bring the player down safely; especially given the contrast with Tommy Bowe's case that's mentioned at paragraph 33. The last sentence of paragraph 32 makes it pretty clear that it was not supporting the player that made it dangerous.