Players, not rules, must comply with high contact crackdown

Melbourne Rebels captain Michael Wells says it is firmly incumbent on the players to master their tackling technique after a string of recent cards.

Rebels playmaker Matt To’omua was shown a yellow card for a tackle gone awry that led to an accidental clash of headers in Friday night’s one-point win over Western Force.

Teammate Ray Nu’u was shown a red card in the 52nd minute for his tackle that landed his shoulder into the head of a Force opponent.

The two cards came just two weeks after Brumbies star full-back Tom Banks was shown a red card for his tackle attempt which resulted in a head clash with Force flier Toni Pulu.

Referee Damon Murphy speaks with Michael Wells and Matt To’omua Friday night. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Banks suffered a broken cheekbone in the incident, and a SANZAAR foul play review later found there were enough mitigating factors to negate the red, saying it should have been yellow at the place.

The Rebels overcame yellow and red cards to hold on to a gutsy 22-21 victory in Perth.

Although Wells is not a fan of play being held up for so long while referees review the incidents, he said it was important players corrected their tackling technique to avoid head-high strikes at the ‘coming.

“It’s this balancing act. We don’t want player welfare to come second, we also want the game to remain a spectacle,” Wells said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a contact sport, but it’s up to us as players to reduce the height of the tackle.

“World Rugby has been pretty clear about that. There is not much discretion for the referees. Any contact (heads up) will have to remove a card.

“So it’s up to the players to work on tackling technique.

“If you hit someone on the head or above the shoulders, you’re going to be in trouble.”

To’omua returned to the pitch to play a crucial role in the victory, netting a 68th-minute penalty to help the Rebels regain the lead.

It was his second game since being controversial for a training camp of 40 Wallabies.

“I want to thank Matt because this is probably the first time Matt has been kicked out of the Wallabies squad, and you would never have known it at the club,” Rebels coach Kevin Foote said.

“He was still the same Matt, putting the team first. It is enormous. It’s selfless. He was amazing. He just shows that leadership.

“Even after getting the card, no problem, just come back and do a good job.”

Join experts Brett McKay and Harry Jones plus special guest Jonathan Kaplan on the latest edition of The Roar Rugby podcast.


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