500 words about just two


“I’m sorry.”

Those are the words with which Ian Tempest showed the red card to Richard Barrington, the Saracens prop forward sent from the field in their game against Exeter this afternoon.

Two little words but they can mean a lot. I’m not sure if Tempest will be spoken to about them. After all, Barrington, under the new guidelines, had committing serious foul play; a red card was the right card. There was nothing to be sorry about. Perhaps Tempest will also be spoken to about how Brad Barritt stayed on the field. His ‘tackle’ on Parling was also high and to the head. Maybe it was all getting a little bit too much for the man in the middle.

Of course this weekend was going to be about the new laws. Introduced mid-season, lots of people have argued that this gives no time for players to adapt. But however legitimate that sounds, it masks the underlying issue here. The flurry of yellow and red cards aren’t really because the players can’t adjust. It’s because they won’t adjust. Few believe these changes to be right. And so, perhaps not in outright protest, but certainly in collective defiance, they will continue to go high and risk connecting with the head.

Many have come out in the press and via their individual twitter and social media accounts claiming how they don’t agree with the new law. Do they care about the health benefits? After all, we’re doing this to limit contact with their heads. As pointed out to me by my esteemed Twitter colleague, Tim O’Connor (well worth a follow), you only have to think about all those players wanting to go back onto the field after being concussed to get the answer. Their desire to play top level rugby in the here and now seems far stronger than concerns about a future of constant headaches, however difficult that may be to comprehend.

This situation reminds me of a wonderful cartoon I saw recently. A man at a lectern stands talking to a crowd. He exclaims “Who wants change?” and nearly everyone in the audience raises their hand. “Who wants to change?” he continues. The arms in the room drop.

This will take time. It will take re-education in a sense but like any other variance this game of ours has gone through, it can be achieved. But the most important party, the players, are yet to be convinced. They will rally round Barrington and any others sent from the field over the next few weeks. But ultimately they need to see the bigger picture. Geoff Parling’s career-threatening prognosis should act as a suitable herald. An unwilling but timely representation of why we are going through this.

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The former England lock forward Simon Shaw’s comments via social media are most prevalent. In short, it’s not just games in which precautions need to be taken. The headbanging that goes on in training should also be addressed. A match is but 80 minutes on a Saturday. These boys train full time.

To affect this, it isn’t just about simply adjusting tackle technique. Everyone who plays the game needs to think about why we are doing this. It will only work when everyone is onside. And, most importantly, we need to stop making apologies.

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1 Response to 500 words about just two

  1. DrivingMaul says:

    The NFL already restricts the amount of contact training players can do. I heard on the Egg Chasers Podcast that Premiership teams are already reducing the amount of contact training that they do.


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