The blizzard of yellow and red cards blighting to Gallagher Premiership is forcing teams to train with 14 men as the crack down on illegal hits continues to have a major impact on matches, with last weekend producing a season’s high total of offenders. The bare statistics show 19 yellow cards and three red cards were handed out during the weekend’s matches, strengthening the view that the situation is getting worse, as the total number of yellow cards shown this season passed the century mark.
After 15 rounds of last season’s Premiership campaign there were 116 yellow cards issued along with 12 reds, compared to the current running total of 105 yellow cards and 14 reds. While that suggests the number of cards being given this season is not as bad as it appears, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant seven matches have been decided by a panel without a ball being kicked.
This disfigures the current situation where referees are cracking down on illegal clear-outs in a bid to protects players from hits above the shoulders
George Ford saw two of his team mates given yellow cards in Leicester’s win over Newcastle yesterday which meant the Tigers were down to 13 men in the second half.
He admitted: “Ideally you don’t want to give yellow cards away but there seems to be a lot more at the moment, so to be able to play with numbers up and numbers down is something we’re going to have to get used. It’s a good challenge for us and we have got to get better discipline wise.”
Sale currently top the naughty table with 15 yellow cards in the Premiership and managed to win at Wasps despite receiving a remarkable four yellow cards.
Captain Jono Ross has served a ban for collecting too many cards this season and Alex Sanderson, the Sale director of rugby, is having to deal with the same kind if indiscipline that predecessor Steve Diamond wrestled with last season, when the club had been given 11 yellows plus one red card by this stage of the campaign.
As a result, Sanderson has amended training to deal with this recurring problem.
“We train with 14 men at various points to replicate the kind of problems you have to deal with when you go a man down,” he said.
“It is a massive concern every week for all the teams. We are top of the cards chart and it suggests we enjoy playing with 13 or 14 men, we have to work hard at our tackle technique and if we want to challenge for anything we have got to be better.”
London Irish, like Sale, appear to be habitual offenders and at this stage last season had been given 13 yellows and two reds, and despite having their games with Bath and Northampton decided by a panel, have still received 13 yellow cards and three reds this season.
Bath were reduced to 12 men during their loss to Irish and Stuart Hooper, their director of rugby, admitted: “The cards have come close together and that’s down to individual responsibility and managing yourself.
“It gets heated and on edge and we’ve made errors which have cost the team. We have to look at ourselves.”
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