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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stephen Jones Tip-Tackle.

Stephen Jones of the Scarlets - the man once immortally described by Welsh fans as running like a robot monkey carrying a fridge - has, consistently, been one of the best NH outhalves around for the best part of a decade.

Which is all the more of a pity that he was in trouble for a tip-tackle on Tommy Bowe of the Ospreys in the West Wales derby in last weekend's RaboDirect Pro12.

You can see footage of the tackle in gifs of it HERE and HERE (with thanks to Gwlad); and stills of it HERE and HERE (again with thanks to Gwlad).

Jones was yellow-carded.

Now, following the Tipuric case, and the others at the RWC including Jones' own national captain, Sam Warburton, you'd expect that he'd have been before a citing committee. I've dealt with the background, and those judgements, HERE and HERE.

Except - he wasn't cited.

So, where we thought, finally, we had some certainty creeping in - that a tip-tackle where there was not an effort to bring the tackled player safely to ground was a red card - we now have near-complete uncertainty. And, let it be noted, complete inconsistency even within the RaboDirect Pro12 disciplinary system.

No matter whether this case, or the six others it contradicts, is the exception, this is not good enough. A system requires that it be systematic; that it be consistent, not arbitrary. And when it is this uncertain, it is once again edging so close to being arbitary as to invite action being take.

This issue won't go away until it is properly addressed. The sooner that is done, the better for the game.


  1. I note that the IRB are still shy of putting the 2009 memo on tip-tackles on their website.
    The 2011 memo on high tackles is there, from which I conclude that the omission of the 2009 memo is not accidental.

    from this, and the sort of inconsistency you highlight I surmise there is no small amount of ambivalence within the IRB themselves on this topic. I don't think they stand fuill 100% behind their own guidelines.

  2. Crossref, to quote Napoleon - never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence. Or, indeed, plain forgetfulness, considering they issued the statement back after the Warburton tackle citing the 2009 memo they still haven't put up on the website.

  3. I posted earlier in a previous item on this issue.

    law 10(4)(j) has two elements:

    (a) Lifting AND
    (b) Dropping OR Driving the player into the ground

    Unless both are present there is no breach of 10(4)(j) and no red card.

    The IRB guideline of June 09 is consistent with this. It offers three scenarios the third of which is a lifted tackle with no dropping or driving. This latter tackle is 10(4)(e) - a dangerous tackle. The guidelines suggest this tackle is a penalty/yellow card.

    Importantly at no place in the Laws or Guidelines can I find any requirement on a player to "bring the tackled player to the ground safely". It appears to be a common misconception of the laws; good advice but not essential.

  4. Nacko, I answered that point on that other thread; it's the failure to bring the player down safely, even if his upper body comes into contact first, that makes it a red card. Somewhat ironically, it was Tommy Bowe's own case that was used, in Sam Tuitupou's case, to draw that distinction.

  5. Tim, couple of points.

    The Tuitupou's case is a drop so clearly within 10(4)(j) and the second scenario in the 8 June 2009 guidance.

    My point was that "bringing player to ground safely" isn't in the law. Turning to the guidance the wording doesn't establish a positive duty, rather it requires the ref to consider whether regard was had to safety which is different.(I realise we are splitting hairs but thats what lawyers do!)

    If a player is brought to the ground safely it is unlikely to have been a "drop" in any event so no breach of the law.

    Stephen Jones doesn't seem to have dropped Tommy Bowe so the question for the ref would be "driving into the ground" That seems a judgement call and the ref presumably went 10(4)(e) and issued a yellow.

    Second query is one I have always wondered about. To what extent are Disciplinary Tribunals bound by their own previous decisions or decisions of other tribunals? I don't know if there has been a ruling on this, anybody know?

  6. Nacko, for me, the interesting thing about Tuitupou is that it was more or less a precursor of the current 10 (4) (j) - you'll notice in the decision it was effectively decided on what 10 (4) (j) was to be changed to in December 2009. And it's prescient because, as regards bringing the player to the ground being in the law - it's not, but neither is the 2009 memo, or the interpretations of that memo in the cases. They are, in effect, an interpretation of what the memo means; and it's the one that's being followed. To have regard to safety, you have to at least try to bring him to ground safely; it can go wrong, as accidents do happen, but if you do, then it's not a red card offence, and you should not be cited.

    It's also worth noting that the RFU has made it clear that offences are strict liability; it's what happened, not what was meant, that gets punished. The Guidance Note in Appendix 5 of RFU Regulation 19 is well worth a read in that regard -

    As regards the binding effect of previous decisions, it's a good question. I'd say it's really about consistency. The ERC, and RFU, are particularly good on this aspect and have built up a real corpus of precedents, as does each RWC. Others are much less effective. So far as I know, there has been no real authority on it; it would be an interesting thing to discuss at a future date.

  7. tim - up until last month I did tend to see the absence of the 2009 memo on it's own website as an accidental omission by the IRB.. but now I tend to the view that it's deliberate.

    two reasons
    - because the twin brother of the 2009 memo, the 2011 memo on high tackles is now there. This even refers to the 2009 memo. I struggle to see how they could put that on the website, without noticing the absence of the 2009 memo

    - in the week that followed the SW sending off, the IRB had to issued a comment on the RWC website explaining the deicsion in terms of the 2009 memo, which is a tacit admission that the 2009 memo wasn't previosuly published.

    I wouldn't ascribe it to malice though -- my guess is it's embarrassment.. they aren't quite convinced by their own memo, and don't really think a RC is appropriate for tackles like SWs.

    But they are in a fix- they can't easily soften the memo now.