Danny Care questions why Ireland's Bundee Aki wasn't sin-binned for shoulder charge on Elliot Daly
England scrum-half Danny Care has urged referees to be consistent when making potentially match-changing decision after questioning why Ireland centre Bundee Aki wasn’t shown a yellow card for a shoulder charge on Elliot Daly during last weekend’s Six Nations clash at Twickenham.
Referee Angus Gardner reviewed an incident in the 26th minute of Saturday's 24-15 defeat by the Irish following advice from assistant referee Nigel Owens after Aki hit England wing Daly with a shoulder charge, with Gardner looking at the tackle with his television match official Ben Skeen.
Despite replays drawing a chorus of boos from the partisan home crowd inside the stadium, Gardner decided that “there is one arm and a bit of a head-knock between the two... so I'm thinking penalty only here", with Skeen agreeing.
The decision was heavily criticised by former England scrum-half Matt Dawson at the time, who claimed it was “verging on a red card”, and the Rugby World Cup winner labelled the process an “absolute shambles”.
Having been sat on the replacements’ bench at the time, England international Care admitted that he and his teammates believed Aki would be shown a yellow card at the very least, and he questioned why the Irish centre escaped action when England flanker Sam Underhill was sent to the sin-bin for a similar tackle during the defeat by Scotland.
“We watched it and we thought the way that the game is at the moment, he’s going to be spending at least 10 minutes in the [sin] bin,” Care said on the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast. “We were obviously down there on the bench looking up at the big screen, it got showed a few times and I think people have spent time in the bin for less than that.
“We did think he was going to go but I think Sam Underhill got a yellow in the Scotland game for something very similar. I don’t think Aki’s was any better than that and Sam deserved probably to go to the bin, I don’t see why Aki shouldn’t have gone as well.”
The 31-year-old Harlequin did have sympathy for Gardner given the complexity of officiating a rugby union match, but he added that the players and the game would be much better off if there was consistency when such decisions are made, given that too much is being left to the referee’s interpretation of the rules.
“In fairness to the refs, it must be the hardest sport in the world to ref,” he added. “I do think that because there are so many variables and it’s interpretation a lot of the time, and they do get a lot of stick and it’s a tough job. But consistency throughout would help rugby.”
At the time of the incident England were losing to the Irish 14-0, but just three minutes later Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony was sent to the sin-bin for repeated infringements and, had action been taken against Aki, the Six Nations champions would have had to contend for at least seven minutes with just 13 men to England’s 15.