Video: Sam Warburton: Tip tackles, spear tackles, call them what you want, but they just won’t go away
THE Welsh star on why they aren’t always as bad as they seem ... take Stephen Ferris, for instance
IS the reaction to them getting a little out of hand? I think it might be, if I’m honest.
Obviously, I’m not advocating dangerous tackles in the game, but the problem is that everyone is looking for consistency, and I don’t think there is an answer that can be written in black and white.
Every case is different. There should be more interpretation of individual circumstances.
Let’s take a look at three tackles. Firstly, mine in the World Cup on Vincent Clerc. I had to make a decision in about half a second as to which man to take – either the scrum-half or the winger coming around from a line-out. I took the winger Clerc. It was a legitimate hit without malice. He went flying up in the air. I panicked and let him go. Result? A red card.
Next, let’s take my Wales team-mate Bradley Davies’s tackle on Ireland's Donnacha Ryan last Sunday in Dublin. I’ll admit that I didn’t see it live.
I was, of course, on the bench having departed at half-time with a dead leg, and spent most of the last quarter with my head in my hands.
I just couldn’t watch because it was so tense. I saw the tackle for the first time when I was about to do a post-match television interview and was shown it on the monitor.
I knew immediately that Bradley was in trouble. It was so far away from the ball. In that instance you just don’t have a leg to stand on, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Bradley looked like he had got irritated, and it was an act of aggression that did look malicious. He didn’t spear Ryan into the ground, but he did pick him up and dump him. It was a tip tackle in my view. Result?
On the touch judge’s recommendation, a yellow card. Nobody could have argued with a red card. And now Bradley has been given a seven-week ban.
He was gutted enough anyway, as we always make a big thing about yellow cards. They have cost us before and Bradley’s could have cost us here.
A few years ago we would probably have lost that game, but we think that we are in such good physical shape that we got away with it.
It’s hard because sometimes in a game you do see red (again excusing the pun!), if, say, someone puts in a cheap shot, but you think about revenge for a split second, then get on with the game.
You just have to, these days. Discipline is too important.
Finally there is Stephen Ferris’s tackle on Ian Evans, also last Sunday. Ferris knew which man he was going to tackle. His too was a legitimate hit, but he came in at an angle. There was no malice, but Evans did go up in the air. And Ferris did bring him back down. Result? A yellow card.
All these tackles fall into the same bracket, yet they are all so different.
Accidents sometimes do happen on a rugby field, and I think we need to be careful in handing out cards so easily. Ferris’s yellow was harsh, in my opinion. But I do think the penalty was fair, and I do think we deserved to win.
I thought we looked really good when we kept the ball. And the truth is, as Warren Gatland said, we were probably playing at only 70 per cent of our capabilities.
We realised that when we studied the video of the match. There were occasions when players had worked really hard to get to certain situations, only for them to be wasted. But we did create a lot of opportunities.
We could have scored four tries, because Ryan Jones thought he had scored the one that was disallowed.
And, of course, we had George North in such devastating form. He has become one of our key players. I’ve said it before, and it’s always been a compliment, but he’s a freak.
I was sitting on the bench and I turned to Ashley Beck alongside me and said, ‘people forget that he is only 19 years of age’. He is unbelievable. No matter how often someone wants to train, there will still be things George can do that others can’t.
We have a Dutch sprint coach, Frans Bosch, who comes over to work with us and he says George’s acceleration over 10 metres is as good as the top sprinters, but what he can’t understand is that those sprinters weigh 80-90kg, while George is 110kg and still shifts as quickly.
Mind you, all of our backline are huge these days. I think they were 9kg a man heavier than Ireland last weekend, and most of them – certainly George, Jamie Roberts, Jon Davies and Alex Cuthbert – are heavier than my 103kg. And they’re all much quicker!
We’re trying to be different, and so this week for the first time we have brought in our own portable cryotherapy chambers. After our experiences in Poland the idea was put to the players, and we were all really keen.
The chambers can give us an extra day’s training during the week when we might otherwise be recovering. At minus 160C they are even colder than those in Poland, and we’ve been using them since Tuesday.
We are hoping this will give us an edge again on Sunday against Scotland.