Saturday 25 February 2017

Schmidt calls for review of laws as Brown faces nervous wait over citing

Gavin Mairs and Ruaidhri O'Connor

England's Mike Brown scores his side's second try of the game during the Six Nations clash with Ireland at Twickenham. Photo: David Davies/PA
England's Mike Brown scores his side's second try of the game during the Six Nations clash with Ireland at Twickenham. Photo: David Davies/PA

Joe Schmidt has called for World Rugby to review the laws surrounding kicking the ball out of the ruck amid growing fears for player safety.

The call comes as England full-back Mike Brown faces an anxious wait to discover whether he will be cited for kicking Conor Murray in the head as he attempted to fly-hack the ball out of the Ireland scrum-half's hands during the Six Nations match at Twickenham on Saturday.

Brown aimed several kicks in an attempt to dislodge the ball, even when the Ireland scrum-half held it in his hands off the ground.

Murray required stitches to a head wound after Brown's foot struck his head but referee Romain Poite judged that the contact was accidental.

"Look, I'm not going to chase those things," Schmidt said. "They're decisions that officials make and they make them under pressure and they have other people look at things. I've never chased one of those and I won't start now.

"The one thing that I did identify is it is something that appears to be a strategy. There is a lot of kicking the ball out of the ruck and I just think it's probably something that even the lawmakers or the officials have to have a bit of a look at just regarding player safety, particularly with the head and particularly the eyes, as it was in this incident."

World Rugby declined to comment on the issue last night as the citing window remains open from 48 hours after the final whistle.

Eddie Jones, the England coach, insisted Brown's actions were not illegal.

"The referee adjudicated on it, mate," Jones said. "It was fair. If ball is on the ground then you are allowed to kick it, aren't you? Was the ball on the ground?

Reckless

"If it wasn't on the ground then where was it? If you have been tackled then you can play the ball. The referee didn't think it was reckless. "Why should I give my opinion? If I say something about the referee then tomorrow's headlines are 'Jones complains about the referee'."

Schmidt, meanwhile, wants his players to show that they've learned enough from their run of four games without a win to turn the tide in their favour.

Victory over Italy on Saturday week is now non-negotiable for a team the head coach accepted is in "a little bit of transition" as they deal with a long injury list and the retirement of Paul O'Connell.

"There's got to be (growth), because you can't lose Test matches and you can't put yourself in the picture, get ahead in the second half with 30 minutes to go, then give up two tries and then not convert the chances that you have to score," he said.

"There's things we've got to get better at, there's got to be room for growth because if there's not it's going to be a very bad habit that we don't want to be part of."

The schedule has been cruel to Ireland but it means the last two games of the campaign, at home to Italy and Scotland, are eminently winnable.

"We need to get a result and make sure we build over the next two weeks to get a result towards that," Schmidt said.

"It's an incredibly proud group. I think they showed some real character today, particularly in that first-half defending.

"I thought we really challenged (England). They're a really good team, a very settled team."

Murray is Ireland's only fresh injury worry while, Jared Payne may come back into the equation.

Irish Independent

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