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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

Wales team to face Ireland in Dublin named

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Senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named the Wales side to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the third round of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 24 February (KO 2.15pm live on ITV and S4C).

There is one change to the starting XV that played England at Twickenham on 10 February, with Sam Costelow returning for Wales at fly half.

Among the replacements back-row Mackenzie Martin is in line to win his first senior cap this weekend and would become the 1,200th Wales men’s international.

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Tight-head prop Dillon Lewis would be making his first appearance of this Championship if called on from the bench.

Gatland said: “We are excited to go out to Dublin and test ourselves against one of the leading sides in world rugby. It’s a challenge we are relishing.

“We’ve made steps in the last couple of games and now it’s about building on that, learning from those experiences and taking that into this weekend.

“It’s about continuing to work hard, looking for accuracy in our performance across 80 minutes and also keeping our discipline.”

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 24 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C.
15. Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 56 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 119 caps)
12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 34 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 16 caps)
10. Sam Costelow (Scarlets – 9 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 55 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 27 caps)
2. Elliot Dee (Dragons – 48 caps)
3. Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby – 4 caps)
4. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 14 caps) Captain / Capten
5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 53 caps)
6. Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 15 caps)
8. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 45 caps)

Replacements

16. Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 40 caps)
17. Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Harlequins – 54 caps)
19. Will Rowlands (Racing 92 – 30 caps)
20. Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped)
21. Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 19 caps)
22. Ioan Lloyd (Scarlets – 4 caps)
23. Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby


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6 Nations

Jager and Ahern Join Ireland Squad Ahead Of Wales

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The Ireland squad re-assembled in Dublin on Sunday evening ahead of this weekend’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations Round 3 clash against Wales at Aviva Stadium (Kick-off 2.15pm).

Prop Oli Jager has joined the squad and Thomas Ahern has also linked up with Andy Farrell‘s side at the IRFU High Performance Centre this week.

Iain Henderson picked up a foot injury during Ulster’s URC game away to Ospreys on Sunday and there will be a further update later in the week.

The Ireland Match Day Squad to face Wales at Aviva Stadium will be named on Thursday at 2pm.

Ireland Squad – Wales Week: 

Backs (15):

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht)
Harry Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
Jack Crowley (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Ciaran Frawley (UCD/Leinster)
Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
James Lowe (Leinster)
Stuart McCloskey (Bangor/Ulster)
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Calvin Nash (Young Munster/Munster)
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)
Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster)

Forwards (21):

Thomas Ahern (Shannon/Munster)*
Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster)
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster)
Oli Jager (Munster)*
Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jeremy Loughman (Garryowen/Munster)
Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster)
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster)(captain)
Tom O’Toole (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster)
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Nick Timoney (Banbridge/Ulster)
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)

*Denotes uncapped player

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

O’Connell Gives Update On Keenan As Ireland Return To Training

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Hugo Keenan is Ireland’s main injury concern ahead of Saturday week’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations clash with Wales. The ever-influential full-back took a blow to his left knee during the win over Italy.

Keenan sustained the injury when falling awkwardly in a 52nd-minute tackle from Italian replacement Giosuè Zilocchi. He was replaced shortly afterwards by Harry Byrne, with Jack Crowley switching to the full-back position.

The 27-year-old Dubliner has become central to Andy Farrell’s plans in a short space of time, with his 15s international debut coming just over three years ago. He has accumulated more match minutes than any other player so far during Farrell’s coaching reign.

He has started 38 of Ireland’s last 42 Test matches, and Jimmy O’Brien and Michael Lowry are the only other players who have worn the number 15 jersey during that time.

Asked about Keenan’s likely availability for the third round of the Six Nations, Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell said: “Hugo didn’t train today, but he hasn’t been ruled out for the Welsh game yet.

“He’s progressing with his rehabilitation, he was there at training today and took part in the organisational bits, but I have no full update. He’s still available for selection for Wales, but I’m not sure what will happen in the next few days.

“He plays a big role, he’s obviously been injury-free for a long time. He’s an excellent player and in full-back, covering the back-field defensively, he has a lot of work to do in attack as well, recreating our attack by moving side to side.

“There’s a lot of IP (intellectual property) there that we might miss out on if he wasn’t playing. He also plays a big leadership role for us, he’s a very smart guy.

“He’s a problem-solver within the group and highly regarded within the group. Whether he’s there or not, he’ll continue to play that role.”

Keenan has had a strong start to the tournament, with his individual highlights including his try-saving tackles on Damian Penaud, including one which drove the French dangerman back a few feet, and an electric break against Italy from Craig Casey’s kick over the top.

He has an 85.7% tackle success rate, including two dominant hits and a turnover tackle. In attack, he has had gain-line success with two-thirds of his carries in the Championship, and has the team’s best tackle evasion rate of 47.1%.

If the Leinster star is ruled out when Ireland resume their campaign next week, the versatile Ciaran Frawley, Jordan Larmour, Jacob Stockdale, Calvin Nash, or indeed Crowley, could be options to fill the full-back berth.

Larmour, who returned to international action last Sunday for the first time since 2021, made nine starts at full-back between 2018 and 2020. Farrell handed him the number 15 shirt for his first game in charge of Ireland four years ago.

Last August against Italy, Frawley made his debut as a half-time replacement for O’Brien at full-back. He has started six times in the position for Leinster this season, with Stockdale, Nash and Crowley also having provincial experience in the back-field.

As O’Brien and Mack Hansen are also injury-enforced absentees, O’Connell admits that it could provide an opportunity to build more depth in that area if Keenan is unable to recover in time.

“It’s good for us in some ways because it makes us play someone else there if he doesn’t make it,” commented the Limerick man, who is in his fourth Men’s Six Nations campaign as part of the Ireland coaching group.

“I’m not sure yet, I don’t pay as much attention to the backs, but I’m not sure yet where  Hugo is at. As I said, he was around training today, so we’d be hopeful.”

Meanwhile, Garry Ringrose is on track to play some part against Wales at the Aviva Stadium having returned to training. He missed the opening two rounds due to a shoulder injury.

“Yeah it looks like it, he trained today,” O’Connell said of Ringrose. “We didn’t do a massive session today but he trained today and was in good shape.

“No one else sat out training, no, so they’re all good to go, I believe.”

That includes captain Peter O’Mahony (calf), Tadhg Furlong (calf), and Bundee Aki (knee), who all sat out the 36-0 bonus point victory over Italy as they recovered from their respective knocks.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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