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Itoje’s aerial collision with Earls should have been at least a yellow.

We’ve broke it down and explain why it should have been more than a penalty

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Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

We put the question out to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followers – “Should this have been more than a penalty after Maro Itoje and Keith Earls collided in the air?”

To say we got a mixed response would be an understatement.

Here’s the incident in question.

A broad summary would indicate that English fans thought it was legit, Irish fans thought it was filthy. We take a look at the incident as a neutral.

Firstly, England were the better the team and deserved winners but this incident along with the Manu Tuilagi incident have been major talking points since the weekend.

We’ve taken the incident and broke it into 6 pictures and do the classic, ‘say what you see’

via GIPHY

  1. Wide shot – Earls eyes are already on the ball, Itoje looking straight ahead towards Earls.
  2. Itoje gets closer and eyes remain on Earls whose eyes still remain fixed on the ball.
  3. Itoje gets off the floor first, looking towards the sky for the first time, Earls prepare to take to the air, eyes still on the ball.
  4. Moment of impact, Itoje leads with the knee which is perfectly normal but eyes looking at Earls. Earls still has eyes on the ball. The ball is still not even in the picture at the time of impact.
  5. Itoje being the bigger & heavier man and in the air first naturally dominates the physics of the collision. The ball finally enters the picture a few metres behind the collision, Earls is already perpendicular with the floor
  6. Earls and the ball hit the floor at the same time. No one near the ball.

Looking at the clip, broken down there can be no denying regardless if you are an English or Irish fan, Itoje is not in a realistic position to take the ball at any point. When the ball enters the picture, Itoje has already clattered Earls around 3m beyond the flight of the ball. Whether you believe this is deliberate and Itoje’s only intention was to collide with Earls or he simply got his timing totally wrong, the outcome should have been more than a penalty.

Below is the applicable law.

Law 10.4 – ‘Challenging players in the air’

There are 4 possible outcomes. We look at each one and apply it to the play in question.

Play on – Fair challenge with both players in a realistic position to catch the ball. Even if the player(s) land(s) dangerously, play on. – Itoje not in a realistic position to catch the ball.

Penalty only – Fair challenge with wrong timing – No pulling down. – Not a fair challenge as Itoje has jumped around 3m beyond the flight of the ball.

Yellow card – Not a fair challenge, there is no contest and the player is pulled down landing on his back or side. – Earls is not pulled down, the momentum and weight of Itoje cause Earls to lose the collision and land on back.

Red card – It’s not a fair challenge with no contest, whilst being a reckless or deliberate foul play action and the player lands in a dangerous position. The challenge is not a contest as Itoje is way beyond the flight of the ball, it could be argued it’s reckless and could also be argued deliberate foul play.

Having looked at the law and the available options to the referee, ‘Play on’ and ‘Penalty only’ can not be considered as valid options in this scenario as there is no ‘fair challenge’ for the ball. Itoje was never in a postion to challenge for the ball as he was several metres in beyond it.

With ‘Play on’ and ‘Penalty only’ now not available options the remaining options are ‘Yellow’ or ‘Red’. This then comes down to whether you feel the collision was reckless and your interpretation of Itoje’s intentions. I personally feel that Itoje is far too good a rugby player to get his timing and positioning that wrong. Reckless is defined in the dictionary as ‘ utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution; careless’. For me, Itoje’s actions fit that description. My interpretation of whether his actions were deliberate foul play. Again, I believe that he’s far too good a player to get it that wrong and his intention was purely to collide with Earls. According to the Laws and based on my interpration of reckless and deliberate foul play this would be a red card decision.

As an English fan I feel this would have been a harsh decision and even as an Irish fan, I would feel this would be a little harsh but for the ref to give a penalty and not even refer it to the TMO I feel was a mistake. Perhaps some of the Twitter responses were right and the decision to Sin Bin Tom Curry (harshly in my opinion) came into the equation on this decision.

If you were the man in the middle on Saturday, how would you have dealt with the incident. Vote below:

Ps – Before anyone says it… we know Connor Murray blocked Elliot Daly


6 Nations

Referee Appointments Made For November Internationals

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The match day officials for Ireland’s international fixtures in November have been announced by World Rugby and the IRFU High Performance Referees will have a busy month on international duty.

For our teams in green, the RFU’s Adam Leal will take charge of the game between Ireland ‘A’ and the All Blacks XV at the RDS on Friday, 4th November. The following day, Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli has the whistle for the game between Ireland and World Champions South Africa at Aviva Stadium.

South African Jaco Peyper is in charge of Ireland v Fiji and New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe is the man in the middle for Ireland’s final game of the Autumn Nations Series against Australia.

IRFU referee Andrew Brace takes charge of two games during this international window – England v Argentina and France v Japan. Joy Neville, who will have just returned from the Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, is in the TMO hot seat for the France game against the Brave Blossoms.

Frank Murphy in on duty for Scotland against New Zealand at Murrayfield and Chris Busby has the whistle for the French Barbarians against Fiji in Lille.  Both Chris Busby and Eoghan Cross are on duty in Dubai for the World Cup Final Qualifier tournament.  Chris is refereeing the game between Portugal and Hong Kong with Eoghan in the AR role for that game and the clash between the USA and Kenya.

Friday 4th November, 2022
IRELAND A v All Blacks XV
REF: Adam Leal (RFU), ARs: Luc Ramos (FFR), Benoit Rousselet (FFR)

Saturday 5th November, 2022
IRELAND v South Africa
REF: Nika Amashukeli (GRU), ARs: Mathieu Raynal (FFR), Andrea Piardi (FIR)

Saturday 12th November, 2022
IRELAND v Fiji
REF: Jaco Peyper (SARU), ARs: Tual Trainini (FFR), Jordan Way (RA)

Saturday 19th November, 2022
IRELAND v Australia
REF: Ben O’Keeffe (NZRU), ARs: James Doleman (NZRU), Tual Trainini (FFR)

IRFU High Performance Referee Appointment

England v Argentina
REF: Andrew Brace (IRFU), ARs: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Pierre Brousset (FFR)

USA v Kenya
REF: Tual Trainini (FFR), ARs: Damian Schneider (UAR), Eoghan Cross (IRFU)

Portugal v Hong Kong
REF: Chris Busby (IRFU), ARs: Damian Schneider (UAR), Eoghan Cross (IRFU)

Scotland v New Zealand
REF: Frank Murphy (IRFU), ARs: Andrew Brace (IRFU), Chris Busby (IRFU)

Romania v Samoa
REF: Mathieu Raynal (FFR), ARs: Eoghan Cross (IRFU), Shota Tevadze (IRFU)

French Barbarians v Fiji
REF: Chris Busby (IRFU), ARs: Ben Blain (SARU), Adrien Marbot (FFR)

France v Japan
REF: Andrew Brace (IRFU), ARs: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Christophe Ridley (RFU)
TMO: Joy Neville (IRFU)

England v South Africa
REF: Angus Gardner (RA), ARs: Andrew Brace (IRFU), Pierre Brousset (FFR)

Wales v Australia
REF: Matthew Carley (RFU), ARs: Luke Pearce (RFU), Chris Busby (IRFU)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Emerging Ireland Ready For Currie Cup Champions

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The Emerging Ireland Match Day Squad to take on Currie Cup champions, the Airlink Pumas, on Wednesday in Bloemfontein has been named by the Ireland coaching team.

Emerging Ireland started their Toyota Challenge campaign with a 54-7 victory over the Griquas on Sunday and will take on the Pumas on Wednesday afternoon at Toyota Stadium (Kick-off 4pm Irish time, live on IrishRugby.ie).

Cian Prendergast, a member of the touring party leadership group, will fulfil the captain’s duties against the Pumas.

Prenderast will line out on the blindside flank with John Hodnett in the number seven jersey and James Culhane in the number eight slot. Cormac Izuchukwu and Brian Deeny are named at lock with Callum Reid, Diarmuid Barron and Roman Salanoa in the front row.

Michael McDonald and Jake Flannery will steer the team from half-back with Cathal Forde and Antoine Frisch in midfield. Ethan McIlroy is joined in the back field by Sevens duo Chay Mullins and Andrew Smith.

The replacements named are Dylan Tierney-Martin, Josh Wycherley, Sam Illo, Tom Ahern, David McCann, Ben Murphy, Jack Crowley and Shane Daly.

The match will be streamed live on IrishRugby.ie, while there will be updates on Irish Rugby social media channels.

Emerging Ireland v Airlink Pumas:

Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, Wednesday 5th October, 2022, KO 4.00pm (Irish time)

15. Chay Mullins (Connacht/IQ Rugby)
14. Ethan McIlroy (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
13. Antoine Frisch (Munster)
12. Cathal Forde (Connacht/Corinthians)
11. Andrew Smith (Leinster/Clontarf)
10. Jake Flannery (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
9. Michael McDonald (Ulster)

1. Callum Reid (Ulster/Banbridge)
2. Diarmuid Barron (Munster/Garryowen)
3. Roman Salonoa (Munster/Shannon)
4. Cormac Izuchukwu (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
5. Brian Deeny (Leinster/Clontarf)
6. Cian Prendergast (Connacht)(captain)
7. John Hodnett (Munster/UCC)
8. James Culhane (Leinster/UCD)

Replacements:

16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (Connacht/Corinthians)
17. Josh Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster)
18. Sam Illo (Connacht/Buccaneers)
19. Tom Ahern (Munster/Shannon)
20. David McCann (Ulster/Banbridge)
21. Ben Murphy (Leinster/Clontarf)
22. Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution)
23. Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 

Emerging Ireland Toyota Challenge Fixtures 2022:

Airlink Pumas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Wednesday 5th October 2022, KO 16:00 (Irish time)

Toyota Cheetahs vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Sunday 9th October 2022, KO 14:00 (Irish time)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Aki Banned For Eight Weeks

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Aki will be unavailable for the westerners’ next five URC games, including the derby clashes with Munster and Leinster, and will also miss at least the first two of Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series fixtures.

He will definitely be absent for the Tests against South Africa and Fiji, but could return to face Australia on Saturday, November 19 if he ‘successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme’.

After an act of foul play against Stormers winger Seabelo Senatla, referee Gianluca Gnecchi showed Aki a red card in the 60th minute of the game under law 9.20(a).

The particular law states that a player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul.

In his responses to the judicial officer overseeing the disciplinary process (Pamela Woodman from Scotland), Aki had accepted that he had committed an act of foul play which warranted a red card.

She determined that his actions towards Senatla were reckless and took into account, among other things, the speed, force and high degree of danger in his actions.

Ms. Woodman determined that, had it been based on this conduct alone, the offending would have been categorised as mid-range on the scale of seriousness.

However, she also considered Aki’s actions and demeanour towards the referee in connection with the issue of the red card, which she found did not meet the expected standards of conduct or respect.

This was also taken into account (in accordance with URC’s disciplinary rules) in determining that his offending was at the top-end on the scale of seriousness, which warranted an entry point sanction of 10 weeks.

The judicial officer then considered if there were any mitigating factors and found that Aki’s acceptance that he had committed an act of foul play (during the off-field disciplinary process), expression of remorse, apologies to both the opposing player and referee, and willingness to engage with his provincial coaching staff on a plan to address this issue, were relevant mitigating factors.

These mitigating factors warranted a reduction in the sanction of four weeks.

Aki’s previous suspensions for red cards in 2019 and 2021 for foul play involving head contact, as well as his suspension and warning for previous conduct relating to interactions with referees, were considered aggravating factors, which the judicial officer decided warranted a further two weeks of sanction.

As a result, the Ireland international will be suspended for a period of eight weeks. As previously stated, should he complete the Coaching Intervention programme then the sanction will be reduced by one week.

Fixtures Bundee Aki is unavailable for:

Vodacom Bulls v Connacht, September 30, BKT URC
Connacht v Munster, October 7, BKT URC
Connacht v Leinster, October 14, BKT URC
Connacht v Scarlets, October 21, BKT URC
Ospreys v Connacht, October 29, BKT URC
Ireland v South Africa, November 5, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Fiji, November 12, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Australia, November 19, Autumn Nations Series (substituted if the player successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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