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What Rob Baxter is telling his players about chest-to-chest tackles

By Ian Cameron
Charlie Ewels and Rob Baxter /PA

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Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter says that he is ‘driving’ home to his players the risk posed by chest-to-chest after a fresh spate of red cards has hit the sport.

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On the same day that the drama was playing out over in Twickenham with the sending off of England lock Charlie Ewels, Exeter were also dealing with their own early red card for a chest-high tackle at Sixways.

Exeter were hindered by the first-half sending off of centre Tom Hendrickson for a high challenge on Worcester number eight Sione Vailanu, who could not return after failing an HIA.

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The sending off after just 15 minutes proved telling, with a 14-man Chiefs side struggling to defend against Steve Diamond’s Worcester.

Exeter ended up losing 35-31 to their hosts. Baxter accepted that the red card was crucial, even if his side still had their chances to come away with the win.

“Quite often you now play with 14 men but when it comes so early in the game, it’s that much harder to deal with,” said Baxter.

“So when you go down to 14 after only 15 minutes, you are happy to pick up two points, especially away from home.

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“The red card is what it is, it’s a rugby incident and we had a similar one in our favour at Newcastle a few weeks ago.

“We made some simple mistakes, the intercept try felt like a turnaround of 14 points and at times we slipped off tackles.

“We had a bad period with our line-out but I’m pleased at the way we regrouped in the final stages to score three tries from it to get the bonus-points.”

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“I can’t complain about it because there is a freeze-frame in there, where there is a chin down to the shoulder at force,” he added on the Exeter Chiefs website. “It feels awkward because they happen quite a lot in the game these. Now, those chest to chest collisions, if that are that high and they look wrong, they are leading to cards.

“We had a similar one go the the other way up at Newcastle the other week, so I can’t stand here and complain that they are going one way, because they are certainly not.”

For Baxter it’s very much about getting a message to his players that upright or ‘chest-to-chest’ tackling with force is too great a risk in the current climate.

“The one thing I can say is that they are only going one way against high tacklers, so all we can do is keep driving that you can’t jump in with force at chest height because you run the risk of being carded.”

Ewels’ sending off after just 82 seconds is the latest in a number of high-profile Six Nations red cards, with the 2022 tournament seemingly picking up where the 2021 tournament left off. Italy’s Hame Faiva was red-carded for Italy in Round 3. It’s an area once again under the spotlight given the sport’s ongoing difficulties surrounding the area of concussion.

World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union are facing a lawsuit from in excess of 150 former players who are suffering from traumatic brain injury, early-onset dementia and probable CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

additional reporting PA

 

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