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Players and referees must cut out worrying trend in rugby – Andy Goode

By Andy Goode
Owen Farrell of Saracens interacts with the crowd as referee Luke Pearce speaks to him during a break in play during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bath Rugby and Saracens at The Recreation Ground on April 26, 2024 in Bath, England. (Photo by Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images)

Bevan Rodd and Ben Curry are probably a bit embarrassed about their actions on Saturday and they are just the latest examples in a growing trend in rugby so something has to be done.

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Some people may not like Owen Farrell getting involved and calling Rodd a “soft pr**k” and a “diving git” after the Sale Sharks prop went down following minimal contact from Christian Judge but he’s got a point.

It’s something that we’ve seen creeping into the game a lot more in recent seasons and Farrell’s words are the modern equivalent of what would have been a bit of a shoeing, a slap or a scuffle in the old days.

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I honestly can’t remember any instances of playacting from my playing career off the top of my head but that’s how it would have been dealt with. That doesn’t happen any more so I don’t have any issue with Farrell calling it out.

I have also heard Rodd’s own teammates have given him plenty of ribbing about it after the game and that kind of self-policing from both your own players and the opposition is important in ensuring that this doesn’t continue to become more prevalent.

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It isn’t like he’s a prima donna winger either so it makes it even worse that he’s a prop and supposed to be one of the big, tough guys but he isn’t on his own, we saw Tadhg Furlong flying out the back of a ruck after a clearout from Ellis Genge during the Six Nations.

I can’t see the likes of Darren Garforth, Julian White or Graham Rowntree doing anything even remotely like what we’ve seen from Rodd, Furlong and co of late and the opposition would have let them know about it if they had.

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The game has changed in that respect and I’m not trying to hark back to the good old days but a certain amount of self-policing is still important and the fact that probably isn’t quite as strong as it used to be does mean referees need to be hotter on it.

I actually think Luke Pearce handled the incidents at the StoneX Stadium at the weekend well in terms of what he said but I think officials should be empowered to deal with them in a stronger manner by giving a penalty against anyone they think is diving or exaggerating anything.

Giving a yellow card, as happens in football, would be going a step too far as it comes with a punishment of being down a man for ten minutes in rugby so I’m not advocating that but some deterrent is definitely necessary.

I think referees are more reluctant now to take the initiative and make decisions like that than they used to be because they know the TMO, and recently the bunker as well, will be coming in to rule on incidents but they should be properly penalising any players they feel are making a meal of something.

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I also think if a player goes down holding their head, then they should be made to go off for a head injury assessment and that should be at the discretion of the officials as well as the independent matchday doctor and medical staff.

I know there are inevitably some incidents where players genuinely hold their heads and are hurt but don’t need a HIA but there are so many examples of players doing it nowadays hoping to get an opponent in hot water and it’d certainly make them think twice about that.

It’s also definitely the case that some coaches tell their players to hold their head, exaggerate certain things, stay down or make sure a referee is aware something has happened because they know a penalty or yellow card would significantly help them.

Ivan van Zyl shouldn’t have lifted Ben Curry’s leg at the weekend but the Sale back rower was deliberately trying to slow him down, which should have been penalised, and we didn’t need Curry essentially asking the referee to send him to the sin bin.

Owen Farrell

That is another thing we are seeing creep more and more into rugby and it isn’t something we want to see, let the referee deal with it and get on with your job. Maybe it’s a cultural and generational phenomenon but some players obviously feel they need to do it nowadays.

They clearly feel that highlighting what’s happened and asking for more action to be taken, as well as exaggerating certain incidents or holding their head, might either influence a referee’s decision or alert the TMO or pundits on television to take a look at it.

It’s been a brilliant season in terms of the action on the field but honesty and integrity are essential values of the sport and I think we all need to work hard to ensure they remain so for years to come.

Players need to take a long, hard look at themselves if they’re caught engaging in anything that resembles diving or playacting, self-policing still needs to exist among team-mates and opposition players and officials should be empowered to take action.

We obviously haven’t reached the level football has, where multiple rolls on the turf after extremely minimal contact are commonplace, but it is a creeping blight on the sport and one that I hope can be stamped out next season.

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3 Comments
B
Bull Shark 33 days ago

I believe it was the Wallaby Nick White who opened the floodgates - earning his team a yellow card against SA and getting Faf binned for 10.

Nick White. The original soft pr1ck, diving git.

Owen Farrell is growing on me.

M
Michele 34 days ago

100%. Thank you, Andy.

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Turlough 33 minutes ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

“You want that – not hatred – but whatever it is that stirs it all up. It’s good.” Agree with this. If you can put a common motivating idea in all your players heads during a game it can produce a real Team perfromance. Erasmus is pretty expert at this. It is quite clear that the comments by Etzebeth, Allende and others were not coincidence and were actioned to create animoisty before the series in order to galvanise the South African mind set. While I understand it, I don’t like it. They result in unnessary vitriol between supporters and for what? I don’t think any of the SA players seriously believe any of these claims and with Ireland ignoring them Erasmus won’t get the escalation he seeks. The vitriol shown by some SA and indeed NZ supporters is extremely weird for NH supporters (OK, maybe England have felt it) but it just feels very odd over a sport. Ireland were more or less sh1t for the first 100 years of their rugby, they have improved significantly in the last 25 to be in a position around now (it may not last) to go into a match with the big guns with a real shot of winning. The reaction to this from some SH supporters has been bizarre with conspiracy theories of ‘Arrogance’ fueling abuse from supporters and even NZ players to Irish crowds during the world cup. I love International rugby and the comraderie between supporters. I genuinely dread and dislike the atmosphere around games with the southern giants. They take this very personally. NH teams: play them, try and beat them, enjoy the craic with their players and supporters and wish them well. SH teams wish them well and they call you arrogant in the press months later. Its just a matter of try and beat them and then good riddance til the next time.

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