The controversial view of former All Blacks winger John Kirwan regarding last Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup sendings-off and his desire to have red cards removed from rugby unsurprisingly sparked a veritable storm online. His comments came following the match in Brisbane where Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Wallaby Lachlan Swinton were shown first-half red cards by referee Nic Berry for tackles to the head.
Kirwan, the 1987 World Cup-winning All Blacks star, discussed the incidents up when appearing on the latest episode of The Breakdown, the weekly Sky Sport NZ TV rugby programme.
The former Italy coach said that “our game does not need red cards” as “people have paid good money to watch a game of rugby with 15-a-side”. He suggested players should be replaced instead or put on report.
However, Kirwan’s opinion was dismissed as being “out of touch” and “archaic” by many people online.
Former Canada international Cameron Pierce, who was forced to retire in 2016 from severe post-concussion syndrome, told Kirwan to “get with the times”. Meanwhile, ex-England international Ugo Monye labelled the comments “unhelpful and irresponsible”.
Wow, I hope this guy is joking! The game has changed mate, get with the times ?????
— Cameron Pierce (@cdpierce4) November 11, 2020
The area where so many disagreed with Kirwan was that player welfare must surely take precedence over the entertainment value of a match – and what was ironic about this most recent match was that the two red cards ensured the game as a spectacle did not actually suffer, with Australia eventually winning by just two points.
Unhelpful and irresponsible comments https://t.co/E9gscj7UzF
— ugo monye (@ugomonye) November 11, 2020
Furthermore, while most people would agree that there is rarely any malicious intent from players when tackling, a red card is there as a deterrent. However, some people were also in agreement with Kirwan, feeling that a red card was no longer working as a deterrent.
These tackles are certainly dangerous, but the point Kirwan made was that there were alternatives to red cards as this punishment was not stopping players from doing these type of offences, particularly as the majority of them are mistakes, albeit reckless.
Totally agree with him 100%. These tackles are made in games being played at a ferocious pace, and the carrier changes his body shape continuously, making it almost impossible for the tackler to anticipate. Like he says, they are not trying to hurt people.
— Jeremy Quin (@Thaiblue) November 11, 2020
He’s not contesting the reds – he’s saying that the sanction ruins the spectacle. It’s an imperfect rule – dangerous and intentional foul play needs strong punishment but players are fallible, they make mistakes without intending harm. I like his idea of enforced substitution.
— Jon Dewey (@Writethinking) November 11, 2020
There should be punishment, but red for a “slip” or unintentional hit is wrong.
Especially when you are allowing players to run at full force into rucks into the back of the head / neck of the jackler, 100’s of times a game.
It’s inconsistent and it’s hypocrital.ADVERTISEMENT
— AndrewJoy (@AndrewJ0y) November 11, 2020
It’s rugby union, it’s physical.
Why doesn’t F1 have a speed limit?
Why doesn’t cricket have bowling speed restriction?
Why does boxing still allow punches to the head?
The laws have gone to far and rugby is getting lost in them.
— AndrewJoy (@AndrewJ0y) November 11, 2020
Both Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU experimented with law variations this year around the red card where the offending player was removed from the game but the team were allowed to replace them after 20 minutes to prevent games becoming too one-sided.
The counter to this experiment – and to Kirwan’s stance – has always been that this may see a rise in key players being targeted early on in games, with the side committing the act of foul play knowing they do not risk being down to 14 men for the rest of the game.
That is only conjecture and did not prove to be the case in either competition in Australia or New Zealand. Only one red card was brandished on either side of the Tasman, which was for two yellow cards.
In all sports, there is never complete agreement among players, pundits and fans, but the framework around the rugby union red card is constantly being adjusted and there will no doubt be more change to come. Tu’ungafasi received a three-week ban this week for his tackle, while Swinton was given four.
These rulings by World Rugby are SAFETY related, not ENTERTAINMENT related.
Concussion is REAL, it KILLS, and we MUST try to prevent these injuries.
A red card and ban will help to re-educate players who consistently offend.
Very irresponsible attitude.
— Kevin Westlake (@WestlakeKevin) November 11, 2020
What absolute garbage. Both clear reds. How he gets paid to be a pundit is beyond me? The tackle technique is wrong and this is how we remove it from the game for the safety of the players. They could have just adjusted a few cm’s lower and would be a gold hit.
— Alexander Evans (@AlexDavidEvans) November 11, 2020
Just shows that great players aren’t necessarily that bright. I suspect if it had been any other game with any other teams he’d have said nothing. Grow up Kirwan, sometimes the Gods that are AB’s make mistakes. ????
— David Cookman (@davidiafrica) November 11, 2020
Idiotic and irresponsible view from JK. Just because there was no malice does not mean it’s not a red card. Unintended yes but dangerous nonetheless. There has to be better technique. The body position of Swindon and Tongafasii is simply too high.
— Antony Hill (@AntonyMHill) November 11, 2020
Drivel.. Unless you are psychic you can’t know what someone is thinking. Red Cards are for dangerous play. That was dangerous, poor technique I’m sure as a kid he was taught better. Red cards will make players learn to do better than the ‘stop at all costs’ challenge like this
— DIANE SAMUEL (@dilly_dot) November 11, 2020
This is irresponsible and frankly archaic response. Red cards are required in the game. The players need to take responsibility. Why is it that we don’t see 2 RC every game because most players have adapted away from this dangerous play.
— Robbie Bourke (@robbie_bourke) November 11, 2020
I understand that these are his personal views but expressing them so forcefully, whilst working on TV as a pundit, is, I believe irresponsible.
He seems to be putting the enjoyment of the spectators above player safety.
— Ponty Pete (@DandoPete) November 11, 2020
Someone needs to define how a game is ruined.
Perhaps if we turn it around
Star player lost to a concussion from high tackle for the season
Career ending neck injury from tip tackle
I could go on
Red cards protecting players welfare trumps your 80 mins of sadness
— Because I said so (@CaudalRaphe) November 11, 2020
“I don’t think there is anyone in our game who goes out to intentionally hurt someone”.
Kirwan completely out of touch with the modern day player. Why do we keep listening to old men? Why are they still on TV?
— Tim O’Callaghan (@jollyswagman340) November 11, 2020
If there is no red cards then how long will it be before someone smashes Kolbe or Barret just to get them off the field coz you wont get a red card. Calling Kirwan a pundit these days is just having a laugh really. They dont hurt someone intentionally coz of the red cards Idiot!
— Wihan JvR (@Wihan360) November 11, 2020
It is absolutely ridiculous – absolutely ridiculous that this ignorance and attitude is tolerated let alone given a platform.
Guess you guys clipped and pinned this for clicks and kicks but it’s irresponsible to be promoting idiocy like this and frankly disgustingly dangerous
— Edward Paul (@Edward_Paul34) November 11, 2020
I can’t help but admire Sir John’s ability to seamlessly combine different fashion looks into one outfit. Pocket square to connect with older fans, hoodie to connect with the youth & a magicians jacket to connect with rugby fans within the Magic circle ? #Flawless https://t.co/olsZJsPCpL
— Jerry Flannery (@jerryflannery) November 11, 2020
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