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'We must stop this' - The weekend referee respect in rugby took an ugly turn

By Josh Raisey
Karl Dickson tells off Kyle Sinckler for swearing at him, for which he has since apologised (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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The past weekend’s action was marred by a series of encounters with referees which have brought rugby’s values into question.


Bristol Bears’ Kyle Sinckler was warned by referee Karl Dickson during their win over Exeter Chiefs for his foul-mouthed outburst following what he believed to be (and was) a dangerous tackle.

That same day, the Scarlets’ Liam Williams fired back at referee Craig Evans with the comment “we’ll start playing touch, shall we?” after receiving a red card.

However, the most bizarre incident of the weekend was in France’s Pro D2, where Beziers wing Josaia Raisuqe was awarded a red card after the final whistle had blown for choosing to grab onto referee Laurent Millotte’s midriff and lift him aloft in celebration.

The latter episode was starkly different from Sinckler’s or Williams’. While there was no anger or malice in Raisuqe’s actions, it could be argued that treating a referee as if they were a trophy actually shows less respect than talking back to them.

That red card can be swept under the rug, as it was a comically asinine decision that is unlikely to happen for a while. The worry is that the other incidents are growing more common.


There have since been suggestions that Sinckler should have been punished in the game, but there was not a precedent set for Raisuqe’s infamous ‘lift’, and if anything it has been met by curiosity in knowing that that is what will happen should it happen again.

There has unsurprisingly been a response online following these cases though, in what some feel is a deterioration to the standards and respect in the game.

Rugby is certainly not facing a crisis with an avalanche of dissenting players. Neither has it got to the point where it has crossed the Rubicon and returning to the much-heralded values of a previous era seems impossible. But three cases coming in such rapid fire have caused a stir.

The Englishmen’s remarks have been mitigated by the fact that he was a teammate of Dickson’s for many years at Harlequins, but that is no defence. The prop is aware of that, and has apologised on Twitter for his “heat of the moment” reaction.


The positive for those that fear for the values in the game is that Sinckler has now been cited for his outburst, and Raisuqe was shown red on the field. So while there may be a perceived lack of respect, players are not getting away with it.


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