Luke Fitzgerald explains why he thinks All Blacks duo escaped citing for dangerous double tackle
Former Ireland and Leinster star Luke Fitzgerald has agreed with the World Rugby ruling that the New Zealand duo of Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Sam Cane should face no action that left France's Remy Grosso with a double facial fracture.
Tu’ungafasi will not face any further action for his high tackle on Grosso after World Rugby announced it fell “just short of” a red card offence, despite the France Rugby wing being hit with two shots to the face in the space of second that has left him with a double facial fracture and unable to fly home.
The fallout from the All Blacks’ 52-11 victory in Saturday’s first Test has surrounded the unsavoury incident between Grosso, Tu’ungafasi and New Zealand flanker Sam Cane, who initially caught Grosso’s jaw with his arm before Tu’ungafasi’s shoulder hit him in the face.
Cane and Tu'ungafasi escaped any sanction and referee Luke Pearce decided with television official George Ayoub that it was an offence worthy of “just a penalty”.
Grosso remains in hospital in Auckland with doctors concerned about the effects of flying home to France on his skull fractures, with the cabin pressure inside an aeroplane having the potential to cause dangerous swelling.
Part of the citing commissioner’s decision not to upgrade the offence to a red card threshold was that Cane’s tackle – and Grosso’s preparation for the hit – saw the wing dip into contact that contributed to Tu’ungafasi making contact with his shoulder to Grosso’s face.
It was an assertion that Fitzgerald agreed with when the tackle was discussed on The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast in association with Laya Healthcare this week.
"He is falling into the tackle. It is difficult when you have anticipated where someone is going to be, you've decided you are tackling the person, you know you have the angle and then all of a sudden someone comes in from the side, pulls him from this angle and pulls him down while he's dipping into contact," he said
Co-presenter Will Slattery interjected: "I think that's fair but there are no arms. He doesn't wrap. So even if he made the right contact in the right way, it's still a shoulder charge for me."
Fitzgerald responded: "There are other factors in play here.
"We hope Remi Grosso is okay. That is a real issue but we can't mitigate for all these things all the time in sports. You are putting yourself at risk when you are in these positions. can we manage it? We try to but we're not always able to.
"We don't know how he would be finishing that tackle, and World Rugby have made the decision as well, that he is kind of dipping late into the tackle. There is another factor with Sam Cane and the seatbelt tackle that does accentuate the position quicker. I think it's an awkward collision. I think there should be more effort with the arm. It's an awkward one.
"I think he's anticipated him coming in at a certain shape. All these things are muscle memory. When I see you coming in and I see your body shape and I know there is nowhere for you to go, I'm ready for a collision but all of a sudden Sam Cane comes in from the righthand side pull him down so Remi Grosso is coming in lower into the tackle to try and bust through. I think it's an awkward one. I think there is more at play.
"It's really difficult in the heat of battle. You are trying to smash each other. If you haven't played an international rugby match you just don't know, it's a war zone. It's a proper war zone. It's like going into a cage for a fight, you are trying to kill each other.
"Are you trying to be disciplined? Are you trying to do things the right way? Yes you are but are you going to back down from a collision when you are expecting someone in a certain position.
"I think he is has got unlucky because the bad position has been accentuated. He should have the arm up and his shoulder should be more open and not down.
"It is not a good tackle but there are a few other factors at play here.
"It is a really physical game. These collisions happen all the time and people do get yellow cards but leaving that aside, a double fracture is really unfortunate. There is a bit of bad luck here as well. How many times do see a guy get that hit and get back up and the person gets a yellow card and I do agree that should be that."
Fitzgerald said his main issue was with the inconsistency shown by the referee after he yellow-carded French lock Paul Gabrillagues for a high tackle on Ryan Crotty. Television replays showed he had not made any contact with the inside centre's head or neck.