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Sir Steve Hansen isn't sure 'why the big onus is on red cards' in fight for player safety

By Ned Lester
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

All Blacks coaching great Sir Steve Hansen has offered his opinion on ways to improve the disciplinary system in rugby after Freddie Steward’s red card sparked outrage and debate throughout the rugby community.


A red card to the English fullback in the final round of the Six Nations left the visiting English down a man for the second half, the sin-binning dampening the competitive tension of a hard-fought and championship-deciding match.

The card itself was controversial, while the play saw direct contact from Steward’s shoulder to Ireland fullback Hugo Keenan’s head, there were significant mitigating factors and an independent disciplinary committee, upon review, rescinded the red, claiming a yellow would have been appropriate.

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The mistake from referee Jaco Peyper has led to debate over the direction the game is taking, with fears an unwarranted red card could ruin competition in the upcoming World Cup.

“I’ve got my own personal opinions,” Sir Steve Hansen told The Platform. “If it’s a punch or a kick or a swinging arm that’s really deliberate foul play then you should be off, but you don’t really see too many of those these days and what we’re seeing now is a lot of collision red cards, and they’re not intentional.

“I like the idea of saying ‘right well you’re off’ if it was your fault, for 20 minutes. However, sometimes I think the guy that gets sent off is actually the guy that got injured so I just don’t see how you’d want to commit foul play against yourself.

“There’s still room for a lot of improvement on it. I know we’ve got to be concerned about the head injuries but I’m just not convinced that giving red cards out willy-nilly for what are clearly accidents with no intent, we’re just putting the onus on the referee, or now the TMO gets to make that decision and is he qualified to make that decision? Who knows.


“But, are we doing it because later on, we want to be able to say in court cases ‘well, at least we gave them red cards’?”


Hansen says the emphasis on red cards as the solution to head injuries in rugby is misplaced and resources going into the issue would be better utilised elsewhere.

“I’m just not sure why the big onus is on red cards, I’d like to see us spend more money educating people to tackle better, more money spent on people being educated to anticipate what’s going to happen in front of them a lot quicker and I think we’d solve some of the problems.

“I think we could change a couple of rules, like the height of the ruck, how do you remove a guy that’s over the ball if he’s got his head tucked down? Either you can’t or you can so let’s bring the height of the ruck up again and see what we can do there.


“I know World Rugby are trying their hardest at getting it right but I still think we can do more.”


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