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6 Nations

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

Rory Best to retire.

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best has confirmed that he will retire from professional rugby when his current contract expires after the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Best will bow out with a hugely impressive list of honours and will go down as a legend of the modern game, having spent 15 seasons at the top level.

Rory began his rugby development at Banbridge RFC, with whom he is still involved, while he also played at Portadown College and Belfast Harlequins RFC on route to the professional game.

He made his competitive debut for Ulster in 2004 and has amassed 219 appearances to date, scoring 23 tries. He was a key member of the squad which won the Celtic League title in 2005/06.

Best is Ulster’s most-capped international with 116 appearances (10 tries) and has helped Ireland win the Six Nations Championship on four occasions, including two Grand Slam successes (one as captain).

Best’s leadership of Ireland is record-breaking; he captained Ireland to its first ever win against New Zealand in 2016 and has steered the country to second in the world rankings.

He was a member of the British & Irish Lions squad for the 2013 and 2017 tours to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Best was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to rugby.

“It is with mixed feelings that I announce my retirement from Ulster Rugby as of the end of this season,” said Best.

“This feels like the right time for me to go out on my terms, a luxury for which I feel very privileged.

“I am very excited for the end of the season with Ulster Rugby and for the upcoming World Cup with Ireland, both of which I hope to finish with a massive high, playing at the top of my game.

“In my 15 years at this brilliant club, I have been lucky to have met, played alongside, been coached by and supported by many great people, and I would like to thank every individual for the time they have invested in me since 2004.

“I grew up supporting Ulster Rugby, have been fortunate to play and captain Ulster Rugby, and now look forward to supporting Ulster Rugby in the future with my family.”

Paying tribute to Best, Ulster’s Operations Director, Bryn Cunningham said:

“No player representing Ulster Rugby has had a more profound impact in the professional era than Rory.

“When Rory enters the room, everyone waits for his words. On the training pitch, he demands high standards at all times. During a match, players turn to Rory for leadership and direction. He has been our all-encompassing talismanic figure for more than a decade.

“Rory’s ability to not only stay at the top, but also fight his way through adversity, shows the strength of character he possesses.

“The ever-present support of the Best family on the side-lines, in particular Jodie, Ben, Penny and Richie, encapsulates Rory as the ultimate family man. We know that they will continue to follow Ulster Rugby for many years to come.

“Rory will justifiably go down as one of the greatest legends of Ulster and Irish Rugby.”

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6 Nations

Richards Claims 2003 World Cup Winners Cheated, Woodward Denies

Dean Richards has made some serious accusations to the RFU.

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Former Harlequins director of rugby and ‘Bloodgate’ scandal Dean Richards told the RFU that England’s 2003 World Cup winners cheated in a report.

He claims that his Harlequins side were not the only team using fake injuries to win games and that the World Cup winners were doing so too.

The document, which was uncovered by a documentary on talkSPORT revealed what Richards had said.

“The use of fake blood, cutting players, re-opening wounds, feigning injury in the front row, jabbing players with anaesthetic all occur regularly throughout the game,” he said.

When asked about giving examples by former RFU head of discipline Jeff Blackett he accused the English team.

“RWC 2003. England used faked blood,” he said.

Richards, who was banned from rugby for three years in 2009 for his part in the scandal in which players used fake blood to be taken off as blood substitutions has been shut down by 2003 coach Clive Woodward.

“This is simply not true. I am not sure why Dean raised this. I have never been involved in anything like this. It is ridiculous,” he said.

He also said that the claim was “absolute nonsense”.

It appears as though the RFU have nothing to worry about this time around as it seems like Richards is trying to stir the pot once more in the rugby world.

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6 Nations

French Rugby rule out foreign coach.

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Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

It’s been well documented that current French Coach Jacques Brunel will be vacating his role with the FFR post World Cup in Japan later this year and with all confirmed exits, speculation is always rife as to who will step up and take the role.

One thing that was confirmed this week was that the next head coach of France will not be Warren Gatland, Joe Schmidt, Eddie Jones – or any other overseas coach that has been linked with the top job in French Rugby.

This decision was made following a referendum of the country’s amateur rugby clubs which ruled out a non-Frenchman taking charge.

59% of the clubs voted with a view that they would not support the appointment of a foreigner to replace Jacques Brunel after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

French Federation president Bernard Laporte has promised to respect the result.

“I welcome this democratic expression and of course I will respect that choice,”

Several names have been linked with the job. Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt who have both coached their last 6 Nations games with Wales & Ireland respectively would be shrewd appointments as would Sir Clive Woodward and John Mitchell were also thought to be on the FFR’s shortlist. Current Montpellier boss Vern Cotter – was also expected to be a contender but he too will now not be considered for the role.

Rumours are still strong regarding Ronan O’Gara taking some sort of coaching role with the FFR pre Rugby World Cup but nothing official has been announced to date.

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