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Ireland captain Rory Best: My concerns as a parent over rugby safety

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 21/11/2016

Robbie Henshaw is tackled
Robbie Henshaw is tackled
Bruising: Robbie Henshaw has to be stretchered off

Ireland captain Rory Best revealed thoughts of his own rugby playing children flashed through his mind after seeing team-mate Robbie Henshaw stretchered off during Saturday night’s bruising defeat by New Zealand.

The All Blacks had Sam Cane and Malakai Fekitoa cited for alleged dangerous tackles yesterday after their 21-9 win in Dublin as three Ireland players ended the evening at the Aviva Stadium needing head injury assessments.

Father-of-three Best, who led Irish protests to the match referee, said afterwards that, as a parent, he feels World Rugby must continue their efforts to make the game safer.

“I’m a parent myself and you don’t like to see people going off on stretchers,” he said. “That’s something they’re (World Rugby) clamping down on and hopefully they’ll continue to do that.

“Look, the All Blacks are a very physical side. We know whenever you sign Kiwis into your club side, they hit and they hit hard.

“The first hit on Robbie, they deemed that to be head on head and not shoulder on head. You have to try and roll with those decisions.”

More: Ireland only themselves to blame, says Rory Best

But in speaking as a parent, as well as the Ireland skipper, Best’s concerns at the message sent out by aspects of Saturday night’s play ought to be shared by World Rugby chiefs.

Flanker Cane is already out of the world champions' final game of 2016 against France this weekend anyway with an ankle injury, but he could face further censure for the Henshaw tackle.

Fekitoa is also under scrutiny for a swinging high tackle on Simon Zebo that saw him receive a yellow card during a tempestuous clash.

Should Cane or Fekitoa face sanctions after hearings this week, it will be of little consolation to the Ireland team whose struggles with South African referee Peyper extended beyond the physical nature of their opponents' play.

Ireland believed Johnny Sexton had prevented opposite number Beauden Barrett from grounding the ball for the All Blacks' second score while the TMO video was not called for when Best was sure he saw a forward pass for Fekitoa's second try.

More: Ireland 9-21 New Zealand: Referee Jaco Peyper failed in his duty of care to the players

The sense of injustice was not helped by the fact that many in green felt the centre should already have been shown a red card for the hit on Simon Zebo that yielded his citing.

It is not the first time Ireland have had issue with Peyper, who did penalise New Zealand 14 times, after taking exception to the treatment dished out to Sexton against France earlier this year.

More: Ireland need to defeat Australia or series will go down as a failure: Devin Toner

Best pleaded with the South African to seek the TMO's second opinion on the game-sealing score in the 66th minute - the referee's microphone picked up the 34-year-old saying that there was too much at stake to make an error - but revealed he was told a TMO could not be called for on the captain's insistence.

"Look, we just went up to him and said to take a look at it," Best said.

"He said he can't go (to the TMO) on a captain's call which I suppose is fair enough.

"He has people upstairs in front of the TV that are watching that and he has to trust them. We'll leave that to the assessors.

"When you have a big game like that and it was a one score game at that time, we need to feel that we have a chance to get a call on that."

More: Ireland young guns give Joe Schmidt big reason to stay positive after New Zealand defeat

Ireland will look to move on from the frustrating loss and end their autumn series with a win over Australia on Saturday in a game that will see Best become the first Ulsterman to 100 caps.

"We just have to park this game," he said. "It is the last game in a four game series and we are two from three.

"The way we look at it we can finish strong and finish with three from four which probably not a lot of people would have given us a lot of hope of doing at the start.

"The Aussies are a very tough proposition here. You know we are frustrated and annoyed because we do not like to lose, especially at home, and we are going to have to take a little bit of that with us.

"We have also to park a bit as well and make sure that we move forward."

More: Ireland 9-21 New Zealand: Beauden Barrett admits Kiwis relieved to prevail after tetchy contest

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