Wednesday 21 March 2018

Kevin Myers: Rugby powers must tackle dangerous play

Deterrence is the most infuriating of virtues: the more successful it is, the more invisible are its consequences. So we should at least acclaim a morally superior act of deterrence whenever we see one, especially when it is done at great risk to the doer.

Which is why the Irish rugby world should this week welcome home the referee Alain Rolland, and celebrate the single bravest deed in the Rugby World Cup: his sending off of the Welsh captain Sam Warburton in the semi-final. If his decision adds to the taboo on dangerous tackling, some young men whose names we'll never know will be spared a lifetime of total paralysis.

Unfortunately, many commentators within rugby can be really, really thick, and hence the Cro-Magnon denunciations of Alain's decision. Protestations that Warburton meant no harm, is a nice lad and has a clean record are all irrelevant. His tackle was illegal and potentially lethal. The moment he realised that his opponent Vincent Clerc was upside down in his grasp and heading for the ground, he should have protected the French player and broken his fall. He didn't. It was not Alain's decision to send him off that ruined the game, but Warburton's insane tackle. And that itself would never have happened if every single player knew that the penalty for driving a rival player's skull into the ground was instant dismissal, a fine and a long suspension.

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