Rolland got it spot on
Rowly Williams,
October 19, 2011

So, let's start with the facts. Law 10.4.j exists. A clarification was issued by the Laws Committee in 2007 and a reminder sent to all Unions in 2009. A further reminder was issued to all Rugby World Cup participants in December last year and reinforced a week before tournament began.

But you're telling me it still came as a nasty surprise that a player gets sent from the field of play for a tackle that, according to the referee brandishing the red card, ticked every box for such a sanction?

- Tackled player lifted from the ground; Check
- Legs still in the air; Check
- Tackled player dropped by the tackler; Check
- Landed on his head or upper body; Check

It really was as clear-cut as that, I'm afraid. Referees have been asked/told not to try to second-guess the tackler's intent but to apply the objective assessment of the tackle. So, whichever way we look at the incident, there really was nowhere for Alain Rolland to go with his decision. Just as Wayne Barnes did not feel the need to consult his assistant referees over a missed penalty kick, Alain Rolland also felt confident enough in his own judgment to make the call.

Another aspect to look at is it would have been unlikely if the players had gone into the match - perhaps the most important of their rugby lives so far - without a briefing that they should not open themselves up to anything that might be interpreted as a dangerous tackle. After all, analysis of the opposition and referee performances, recent events and rulings would be part of the modern player's armoury.

Tackles happen, collisions happen and players leave the ground occasionally - of course they do. Nowhere in Law 15 (Tackle law) do any of the definitions allow for the deliberate lifting of another player into the air - but we accept it happens. Thus, the second a player lifts another from the ground they are then responsible for the safe lowering of that other player. There might be a penalty involved for the act but that would be that. Lift a player and drop him as per discussed above and, well we see the inevitable outcome.

Sam Warburton has been a credit to his team, country and the tournament. He will reflect and learn from the experience and, in my opinion, go on to achieve great things in rugby. Shaun Edwards is also one of the world's finest technical coaches and whilst bemoaning the decision now, it will be interesting to discuss things in six months' time with him to see if he still feels it was only a yellow, mindful of Warburton's arm and left elbow position at the height of the tackle,

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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