Daly Sees Red, but World Rugby Can’t See Sense

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England v Argentina - Old Mutual Wealth Series
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Elliot Daly of England is shown a red card during the Old Mutual Wealth Series match between England and Argentina at Twickenham Stadium on November 26, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Just five minutes into England’s autumn clash with Argentina, centre-turned-winger Elliot Daly was shown a red card. The offence? Toppling Los Pumas uncompromising number eight, Leonardo Senatore into the air. World Rugby have clear directives for claiming a high ball catch, solely to avoid the controversy that inevitably ensued after Daly’s punishment.

Is Eddie Jones to blame for the red card? Would it have been avoided if Daly wasn’t playing out of position? Last Word On Rugby examine the outcome from the England v Argentina game incident;

World Rugby Directive

A law to counter collisions in the air resulting in injuries has previously been issued by World Rugby. Law 10.4(i):

  • 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.
  • Penalty only – Fair challenge with wrong timing/no pulling down.
  • Yellow card – Not a fair challenge, there is no contest and the player is pulled down landing on his back and side
  • Red card – Not a fair challenge, there is no contest and the player lands on his head, neck or shoulder.

The criticism

Daly’s offence clearly fell under the red card category, there were very few complaints about that. What drew criticism was the failure to even sin-bin Pumas winger Juan Pablo Estelles later in the half. That incident was a similar type of challenge, the only difference being that England winger Jonny May’s lighter weight, ensured he would land on his feet.

The penalty only directive says that it should be a ‘fair challenge with wrong timing’. By no means was Estelle’s challenge fair. He failed to jump for the ball, as a result, directly meaning May would hit the floor.

The crowd reaction was vehement, but England coach Eddie Jones said after the game that he thought the decision was fair:

“I’ve got no issue with the decision, none at all.”

For viewers of the game, the main problem that World Rugby have to rectify is that many decisions are described as harsh, but fair by the letter of the law. LWOR understand that measures need to be taken to ensure player safety, but surely, human error shouldn’t always result in such drastic punishment.

Leonardo Senatore of Argentina is taken out in the air by Elliot Daly of England during the Old Mutual Wealth Series match between England and Argentina at Twickenham Stadium on November 26, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Leonardo Senatore of Argentina is taken out in the air by Elliot Daly of England during the Old Mutual Wealth Series match between England and Argentina at Twickenham Stadium on November 26, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

An example similar to this in 2016 was the Jason Emery tackle on Willie le Roux, Highlanders v Sharks Super Rugby. Resulting penalty: four week ban.

Could it have been avoided?

Human error happens, as Elliot Daly so horrifically found out. But would that same human error have occurred if a winger had been in his rightful position? Wingers practice sprinting and chasing high balls methodically but outside centers may not. In their role, why would they need to?

In this case, it appears that adrenaline took over. Where, perhaps, a winger like Semesa Rokoduguni would have relied on instinct to take over–on Saturday, Daly had very little instinctive idea when challenging Senatore. Player welfare is paramount, so the ruling stands and gladly the Pumas loose forward was able to play out the match [won 27-14 by England].

But the outcome may have arisen from a lack of preparation and training. Men used to distributing the ball and securing the midfield, asked to play out wide. For that, is Eddie Jones to blame for this farcical event as a result of his team selection?

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