IRB backs Warburton red card decision

Players clash after an illegal tackle on France's Vincent Clerc (on ground) by Wales captain Sam...
Players clash after an illegal tackle on France's Vincent Clerc (on ground) by Wales captain Sam Warburton. REUTERS/Anthony Phelps
The International Rugby Board (IRB) has backed Irish referee Alain Rolland over the controversial red card he handed to Welsh captain Sam Warburton during last night's Rugby World Cup semi-final against France.

The 23-year-old was given his marching orders for an ugly "spear tackle'' in the 18th minute of the match, which Wales lost by just one point.

In a statement today, the IRB said: "Regular directives to unions, match officials and judicial officers have been issued to reinforce the IRB's zero-tolerance stance regarding dangerous tackles and the promotion of player welfare.

"The policy was again reiterated to team officials at a team managers seminar in Auckland two weeks before the start of Rugby World Cup and during the tournament and there have been a number of other tip tackle cases at Rugby World Cup 2011.''

The IRB's rule book says: "Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player's feet are still off the ground such that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.

"A directive was issued to all unions and match officials in 2009 emphasising the IRB's zero-tolerance stance towards dangerous tackles and reiterating the following instructions for referees:

- The player is lifted and then forced or `speared' into the ground (red card offence)

- The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player's safety (red card offence)

- For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles a yellow card or penalty may be considered sufficient.''

Warburton is to front up to an IRB hearing this afternoon over the tackle.

The red card has outraged the Welsh, all the way to the Government, with Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones telling Britain's Telegraph that referee Rolland "wrecked" and "destroyed" last night's match.

Mr Jones said the decision "was a clumsy tackle and a yellow card - but not a red card. The game was destroyed from that point on".

His views echoed those of most Welsh fans, players and coaches who have united in fury and anger after their team's final hopes were dashed.

Their anger was directed at referee Rolland, with the decision so early in the encounter leaving Wales little chance of winning the match.

Coach Warren Gatland didn't hide his feelings, saying he felt "let down" by referee Rolland.

"Why spoil the semi-final with a red card? He's not a dirty player. I'm just gutted."

For his part Warburton said his red card offence was a tackle that went wrong.

"There was no intent.

"I went to compete for the ball after and I thought it was a normal tackle.

"Obviously I'm gutted with the red card but there was nothing malicious."

But French winger Vincent Clerc had a different view, saying Warburton deserved to go for his tackle.

"He put my feet up to my head and we have seen since the beginning of the competition, every time it has been penalised with a red card or yellow card.

"Regarding whether it is a fair sentence, I would say yes. But I feel no anger against him."


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