Rugby union is at present gripped by a fierce debate over Owen Farrell and so-called secure tackling.

Just a few weeks again, the England fly-half was yellow-carded for a harmful excessive sort out throughout a World Cup warm-up recreation in opposition to Wales. This was rapidly upgraded by the match officers to a purple. However that purple was subsequently overturned in a post-match assessment.

Cue outrage among the many safety-obsessed set who’ve taken over rugby. Consequently, rugby union’s governing physique, World Rugby, took the just about unprecedented step of interesting the assessment panel’s choice. In a marathon listening to on Tuesday, a World Rugby disciplinary panel unanimously agreed to uphold the purple card. Carrying a big multi-game ban, the purple has now dominated Farrell out of the 2 opening video games of subsequent month’s World Cup. This has fuelled debate on-line and off as to the rights and wrongs of punishing Farrell on this draconian style.

There are lots of components fuelling the controversy over Farrell’s purple. Many followers are annoyed by the influence new tackling guidelines are having on the sport. Rugby is a technical sport, with tons using on the choices and interpretations of the referee and officers. Incessant new legal guidelines round tackling have made it virtually inconceivable for refs to police persistently.

However on the coronary heart of this furore is an unhealthy concentrate on ‘security’ amongst rugby’s ruling our bodies. World Rugby, which is dominated by the British nations, has been on a years-long campaign to make the sport ‘safer’. That is to be achieved, we’re advised, by outlawing tackles involving the top or neck to cut back concussions and associated accidents. Harsh penalties at the moment are enforced on the skilled degree for harmful excessive tackles. Varied reforms to the membership recreation have additionally been trialled or applied – from permitting solely waist-high tackles to eradicating contact from youth video games altogether.

Farrell is the bête noire of the safety-first crowd. He’s an aggressive, dominant rugby participant – qualities that are more and more unpopular amongst British rugby’s nice and good. Nonetheless, his dangerous rep has little to do along with his alleged crimes on the pitch. He has solely been punished twice earlier than for overstepping the road, together with a two-game ban in 2016 for a harmful sort out and a five-game ban in 2020 for the same offence. He’s hardly a repeat offender.

In reality, it’s his win-at-all-costs mentality and unashamed dedication to rugby’s conventional martial ethos that actually will get up his critics’ noses. It doesn’t assist his trigger that he’s from Wigan and has a background within the historically northern, working-class sport of rugby league. For too many snobby rugby-union followers, this marks him out as a lesser kind of individual. Certainly, his background is commonly cited as a proof for his ‘harmful’ strategy to tackling.

The very fact stays that rugby is an aggressive and generally harmful recreation. That’s exactly what many followers and gamers love about it. The sport can’t be made ‘secure’ in the way in which rugby our bodies are proposing, with out abolishing it altogether. Actually, we must take smart steps to cut back head accidents. However we have to recognise that the ethos of security runs counter to what makes rugby particular. Listening to the criticisms of Farrell, you’d assume that an important factor about taking part in rugby is staying secure and decreasing accidents, somewhat than self-discipline, teamwork and sporting glory.

These countless debates over ‘secure tackling’ are ruining rugby. Those that run the game must drop this safetyism and concentrate on the World Cup.

Jacob Reynolds is Head of Coverage MCC Brussels.

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