Tuesday 6 December 2016

Off The Ball: Only tougher punishments can rid rugby of violent acts

Michael McCarthy

Published 02/03/2016 | 02:30

England's Mike Brown (PA Wire)
England's Mike Brown (PA Wire)

On Saturday, England's Mike Brown kicked Conor Murray in the head.

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A referee, a television match official, a citing commissioner, Brown himself and his coach Eddie Jones all said he did nothing wrong.

Likewise, rugby pundits across the board refused to point out his reckless behaviour. He was within the rules of the game, they said.

This isn't a parochial thing. A couple of years ago, Paul O'Connell completely forgot his duty of care and punted Dave Kearney in the head. Again, the fraternity jumped to his defence.

The fact is, with the way the game is right now, I wouldn't let my children play rugby.

There are lots of problems that are not easy to solve. But there are simple steps. Not letting a player get kicked in the head without any consequence might be a good start.

Mike Brown's intent should not come into it. Rugby players must have a responsibility to protect their fellow players. If when kicking wildly, within the rules, his heel connects with a scrum-half's face, he has not lived up to this responsibility.

It's time for the rugby world to stand up and call a spade a spade instead of continuing to defend the indefensible.

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