Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Right that dangerous play is finally being tackled by rugby chiefs, says Robbie Henshaw

By Cian Tracey

It was the cheapest of cheap shots and the fact that Sam Cane went unpunished even after a disciplinary committee reviewed his reckless tackle on Robbie Henshaw made a mockery of the warning that World Rugby had issued prior to the November Tests.

Henshaw was stretchered off after just 10 minutes of Ireland's defeat to New Zealand and subsequently spent the next three weeks out with concussion while Cane was free to play.

There has been a plethora of contentious incidents over the last few months, which has meant that World Rugby have again had to review the laws and the new 'zero tolerance' edicts that they introduced have hardly come as a surprise.

Had they been in place that night in Dublin and properly governed by referee Jaco Peyper, there is no doubt that Cane would have walked.

That was then and this is now, and Henshaw for one is relieved that the governing body have taken such a hard stance on any potential high tackles.

It means that players must rethink the way they are entering collisions and for Henshaw in particular, who tends to target the chest area of opponents, he accepts that the responsibility is on himself to ensure that the hits he puts in are not deemed dangerous.

"I think it's good that World Rugby are clamping down on high tackles because it is an issue where the player on the other end of the tackle can suffer and miss vital games," Henshaw maintained.

"It's good that World Rugby are taking it into their own control. It has to be implemented to tackle below the shoulders because head hits are dangerous.

"I'm in favour of it but again, it's World Rugby. The referee is the main person who decides whether that player goes to the bin.

"It's all down to the ref at the end of the day what the decision is. But we're in control of our actions and we can avoid that by tackling lower."

While his Leinster coach Leo Cullen insisted last week that the laws hadn't changed from what they have been for the last few seasons, from a player's perspective, Henshaw believes that there has to be a shift in the mindset of players and that begins in training.

"You have to practice your body height when you're dipping late from high to low and showing a different picture. Obviously a lot of my tackles would be quite chest high so I'll need to work on it a bit myself."

There were several questionable decisions last weekend as World Rugby's new laws came into force for the first time and Ulster in particular felt that they were on the receiving end of a harsh call when Sean Reidy was shown a yellow card and a penalty try was also awarded in the same incident.

By the letter of the law, referee Marius Mitrea had little option, even if Reidy's tackle wasn't all that dangerous and Henshaw admitted that he had sympathy for his Ireland team-mate.

"I've seen those let off before. I think it's a statement from World Rugby and the referees department that they really want to clamp down around the neck and head areas," he said.

"Maybe it was a bit harsh on Sean Reidy. Maybe they might ease off on that a little bit because maybe it was only a penalty.

"Looking at the games over the weekend, you saw a couple of yellow cards given out quite easily for tackles that wouldn't have even been penalties in the past.

"I think every player has to address himself and tackle a little bit lower because you can't risk 10 minutes in the bin or else your team will suffer."

On the contrary, Matthew Carley showed plenty of common sense in Paris on Saturday when he twice penalised Racing for dangerous tackles. Neither warranted anything more than a penalty and the referee understandably kept his cards in his pocket.

Munster chief Rassie Erasmus had no complaints about either decision at the time and he didn't again yesterday when asked for his take on the new laws.

"I thought he was spot on with it," Munster's director of rugby said.

"We had two high tackles early on us, which I think if I watched the Friday game and the Saturday game before us, those referees would have given yellow cards and even penalty tries somewhere.

"I thought when we had two high tackles on us, the referee really handled it well. It was just high tackles, it wasn't guys who on purpose wanted to smash someone in the face."

Meanwhile, Chris Robshaw has been ruled out of the entirety of England's Six Nations defence after undergoing shoulder surgery - becoming the champions' latest forward to fall victim to a mounting injury crisis.

The Harlequins flanker was injured on New Year's Day and is expected to be out for up to 12 weeks.

The news will come as a blow to England supremo Eddie Jones after openside James Haskell was knocked unconscious just 35 seconds into his comeback for Wasps following a seven-month absence due to a toe surgery.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph