- 17 Sep 07, 08:38 AM
Cardiff - Now don't get me wrong, I am in no way endorsing bad tackles or foul play - I wince and utter the occasional expletive along with the rest of the watching world when something nasty happens during a rugby match.
But I'm thinking that the citing commissioners and disciplinary panels at this Rugby World Cup are coming down too harshly on players.
South Africa flanker Schalk Burger was pinged for a dangerous tackle on Samoa scrum-half Junior Polu, initially receiving a four-match ban that was reduced to two games on appeal.
Samoa centre Alfie Vaeluaga got a one-game ban from the same match, Phil Vickery two matches for a trip, Paul Emerick five for a spear tackle, and Portugal's Juan Severino Somoza four weeks for use of the head.
You suspect a more draconian approach is being employed when some of the players themselves are grumbling, with New Zealand back-row Jerry Collins one to voice his unease.
Speaking about that South Africa v Samoa match, Collins said: "In that game you could have cited 10 people. It is just the luck of the draw who gets picked up and who doesn't.
"It is like having someone looking over your shoulder. You have it in the back of your mind, but the game is brutal and these things happen.
"Sometimes you get cited for things you wouldn't normally get cited for, it's just luck really."
While the official panel has made its decisions, judging by the reaction on 606 and other forums, the people's court is split as to whether the offences were deliberate, cynical or not.
But what worries me is the severity of the bans being handed out for some incidents of foul play.
If this continues we could end up with a tournament stripped of many of its leading lights by the knock-out stages.
Not that I'm suggesting being a star player should make anyone exempt from punishment, merely that the punishment should fit the crime.
I appreciate that the IRB is trying to put the safety of players first, but it seems that many of these incidents are no more fierce - or more common - than what is seen week-in, week-out during the rest of the season.
Generally the perpetrators are punished by 10 minutes in the sin-bin, occasionally a red card and one-match ban, with only the very bad getting harsher sentences.
Spear tackles, the offence Emerick was found guilty of committing, and dangerous use of the boot or head deserve to be harshly treated.
But I think there should be a distinction between these - which require the offending player to make several separate actions, or deliberately set out to hurt an opponent - and instinctively throwing out an arm to stop a runner.
Also there must be consistency in the citings; if Vaeluaga's actions were worthy of punishment then why wasn't Brian Lima for his tackle on Andre Pretorius?
"The Chiropractor", appearing in his fifth World Cup, may have come off worse from the encounter, but that should not have had a bearing on an incident that looked at least as bad as the one involving Vaeluaga.
On Sunday, Tonga flanker Hale T Pole became the first player to be sent off at a World Cup since 1999, when Jonathan Kaplan gave him his marching orders for striking a Samoan opponent, and it will be interesting to see what length of ban he will incur.
Also in the wait-and-see stakes is what citings will follow in the aftermath of that match - a 19-15 win for Tonga - and the similarly physical encounter between Wales and Australia that took place on Saturday.
Harsh or fair, what are your thoughts on the disciplinary proceedings being used in this World Cup?
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