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'We've a guy wiped out in the first 2 minutes... and it's a yellow card': Tuilagi incident queried

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Exeter advanced to their sixth successive Gallagher Premiership final with Saturday’s semi-final win over Sale but their boss Rob Baxter was left raging about the inconsistencies surrounding high tackles in the sport, his ire on this occasion inflamed by Manu Tuilagi receiving only a yellow card which resulted in a game-ending HIA for Richard Capstick. Last weekend’s round 22 win by Exeter over Sale had left Baxter bemused by the way in which cards were brandished and how there was a lack of empathy for his players when they had to appear at their disciplinary hearings.


The Chiefs had Sam Skinner red-carded and Dave Ewers yellow-carded and cited for respective high tackles involving Faf de Klerk and Simon Hammersley. The subsequent disciplinary hearings resulted in both Exeter players receiving four-game bans that ruled them out of involvement in the Premiership playoffs.

Baxter expressed his frustrations regarding the system when he appeared at his midweek briefing following those hearings and he revisited the issue on Saturday night in the wake of a 40-30 Exeter win over Sale that had a controversial start with Manu Tuilagi only yellow-carded for his high collision with Capstick, who didn’t play on after failing his HIA.

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“If there was ever a platform to talk about inconsistencies around this high tackle stuff the reality is we have got two players with four-week bans now for two instances last week that didn’t even have an HIA and both their lads are out there playing (for Sale) and we have a guy wiped out in the first two minutes and can take no further part in the game and it’s a yellow card. If someone is going to say to me that is all making sense, I don’t know what sense it is making.”

Asked to elaborate on what he feels should be done to bring about greater consistency, Baxter continued: “First and foremost you sit down with the players who are playing now and discuss is the whole citing procedure and the way it happens correct?

“Is it right for a guy to know that the minute they get deemed by a referee to have made head contact that whatever disciplinary meeting they go into they go in with a six-week start point regardless of what else has happened? Then they have to prove the referee got it completely wrong pretty much to get it overturned. If you decide you are going to try and get it overturned you pretty much guarantee yourself a four-week ban instead of a three-week ban.¬†


“You can plead guilty and get a three-week ban for something that is pretty bad and pretty deliberate, you can fight a relatively minor one and end up with a four-week ban. You can have a yellow card for something that takes a guy completely out of a game and you can have a red card for something that didn’t even need an HIA. There is no balance. It is all being wrapped up to create one thing and it just doesn’t work.”

Regarding the Tuilagi tackle on Capstick, BT Sport pundit Ben Kay reckoned: “The referee (Tom Foley) said look there is a dip, so there is potentially a mitigation there. But the referee says there wasn’t much force there. Well, there is. It’s a swinging arm and he [Capstrick] ends up going off for an HIA and he ends up not coming back on, so there is force.”

Baxter finished by insisting: “I just want to be clear, I’m not necessarily having issues with how the game is refereed but the process beyond it is just completely flawed.”



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