Referee Nigel Owens has said that “something needs to change” after a spate of red cards in the Gallagher Premiership this weekend. Two players were sent off in Bath’s contest with Gloucester on Friday, and three more saw red on Saturday as Leicester Tigers hosted Wasps, with the majority of the dismissals being for contact with the head, be it as the ball carrier, tackler or in the ruck.
Speaking on BT Sport’s Rugby Tonight, the Welshman said that there needs to be a change in player behaviour. With increasing concerns that players are persistently allowed to break the game’s laws, Owens said that either referees must referee to the lawbook, or there must be changes to the laws themselves.
“The players don’t seem to grasp what the directives and what the law is really,” Owens said.
“There really needs to be a change in behaviour because you just can’t lead with an elbow, or shoulder, or going flying into a ruck anymore with a head, you just can’t do it.
“Whether it’s the dynamics of the modern game that makes it very difficult for players to change and adopt, I don’t know, but something needs to change.
“If we apply the law as it is, I’m not quite sure if the game can be refereed that way anymore because the law of the ruck, for example, means you must enter the ruck above hip height, you must grasp or bind onto your own teammate when you join the ruck to then move people off on your feet away from the ruck area.
“The game hasn’t been played or refereed like that. The law is there, but it’s just not refereed or played like that.
“If you look at situations like the croc roll for example, it’s quite clear in the law today that you cannot wilfully collapse a ruck.
“So you basically can’t grab a player and pull him to the ground or croc roll him to the ground, you can’t do it in the law, but it’s never been refereed like that and it’s never been coached like that.
“So I think people really need to take a step back, we need to look at the laws, then we all must collectively decide ‘are we going to referee the law as in the lawbook and change the way the game is played and hopefully change player behaviour, and that is safety paramount as well,’ or do we have to look at saying ‘do we need to now change the laws of exactly what’s happening on that field.’
“But one thing that I think is very clear from this weekend is that players, in all fairness to the referees, really do need to change their behaviour.”
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