Sunday 22 April 2018

Keith Wood slams World Rugby's controversial edict on high tackles and proposes 'radical change'

Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

Irish rugby legend Keith Wood believes World Rugby's edict on high tackles issued ahead of the November internationals has placed too much pressure on referees, coaches and players.

He accused New Zealand of going over the line on 'a couple of occasions' and described Jaco Peyper's performance in last weekend's bruising clash at the Aviva as 'very weak'.

Most of his frustration was aimed at the edict released by World Rugby earlier this month which demanded a strict approach to tackles, charges, strikes or kicks that make contact above the shoulder line and they called for firm sanctions for offenders.

Malakai Fekitoa was given a one-week ban for a dangerous challenge on Simon Zebo while All Black flanker Sam Cane was cited but not given a sanction because his tackle on Robbie Henshaw was deemed to be accidental.

Speaking on Off The Ball on Newstalk this evening, Wood said that Fekitoa should have been given a straight red but agreed with the decision to clear Cane of any wrongdoing.

The 2001 World Player of the Year said that World Rugby should lower the point where a tackle can be made to protect players, even though it would drastically alter the game.

"It was one of the most compelling games of rugby I've ever seen. There was some of the most skill I've seen played from Irish players that hit the absolute top level of quality," he said.

"I thought it was the most phenomenal game of rugby. At times wincing and at times very, very uncomfortable.

"I think the directive from World Rugby leaves a fair amount to be desired and it makes it very, very difficult.

"If there is any contact with the head it should be a red card? But there is the law of unintended consequences.

"If that was to continue for another two or three months, everybody will duck going into every single tackle, every single contact will be done above the shoulders and you'll have three or four players gone in each (game).

"If World Rugby are to be really, really serious about that tackle, it can't be at shoulder height, it just can't. It should be lower that that.

"I know that radically changes the game but if you're looking and talking about player safety, then you have to make the tackle somewhere away from the head.

"It can't be at the line of the shoulder which is a couple of inches away from the chin.

"This doesn't take into account (Malakai) Fekitoa's tackle on (Simon) Zebo which was a straight red. It had to be a straight red.

"The fact that the referee didn't look at a replay of that tackle. Fekitoa actually jumped into that tackle, it was a swinging arm, that was just reckless beyond belief.

"Some of the other tackles are not as clear cut and that's where the game struggles. Very few things in rugby are black and white.

"Because that margin is a couple of inches, it makes it incredibly difficult.

"For me, (the edict) puts people under pressure, it puts too many people under pressure and I like to see a whince every now and then but i don't want to see a player getting injured from it.

"We have too many people getting injured and something has to change."

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