Top 14 Ill-Discipline Beginning To Overshadow French Rugby

LYON, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 24: Referee Tual Trainini during the Top 14 match between Lyon OU (LOU) and Castres Olympique at Matmut Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Renowned for its physicality, power and brute strength, the Top 14 is a stomping ground for big hits and ground-shattering scrums. But Top 14 ill-discipline is overshadowing its status as a relatively competitive league – attracting the world’s best – into an arena of unruly outlaws.

Top 14 Ill-Discipline Beginning To Overshadow French Rugby

Each round rarely passes without talking of moments of madness, uncontrolled aggression and ill-discipline. To an extent we’ve come to expect it. But to what extent can it go before it overshadows the rugby being played.

To put some context behind the Top 14 discipline, after just five rounds of rugby so far, fifty-six cards have been shown to players – two of which red.

Round two was particularly notable – the most ill-disciplined round of the season so far. Thirteen yellow cards and a red for Racing’s Anthony Tuitavake following an audacious tip tackle leaving the referee with no options whatsoever.

It’s interesting to note also, the majority of the cards shown to players are a result of poor tackling. Whether it’s tackling high or lifting above the horizontal it is having a profound effect on the Top 14 image.

The other red card this season, given last weekend in round five, involved Montpellier’s Konstantin Mikautadze. An elbow to the face of a would-be tackler ended a dismal afternoon for the league leaders. Disciplinary proceedings will inevitably lead to a suspension. For an offence like this, realistically he will be facing two to three weeks on the side-lines.

Best and Worst Discipline Records

Despite the sending off, Montpellier have been the league’s most disciplined side this season. They are yet to have any players sent to the bin. Newcomers Oyonnax are close behind with only Luc Barba having had ten minutes off the pitch.

At the opposite end of the scale, Clermont have been the least disciplined. For the previous three consecutive rounds, the reigning champions have had two players in the bin. That follows a yellow card in each of the first two fixtures. It means they are the only team to have had players side-lined in every round to date.

Clermont v Brive (round four – four yellows) and La Rochelle v Clermont (round three – three yellows) were just two fixtures where the referee’s hand was glued to his pocket. However, Brive v La Rochelle (round one) and Toulouse v Pau (round two) were the ‘dirtiest’ fixtures of the campaign so far. Both games had four yellow cards, split evenly across the teams. Poor tackling technique and uncontrolled aggression are the main reasons for the yellow cards. Even shoulder charges have become a common occurrence – Ma’a Nonu a common culprit for Toulon.

Astonishingly, nine of the thirty-five games played so far have resulted in three or more cards. It highlights the need to question as to why the league is so ill-disciplined.

Not Limited to French Players

French rugby is known for its lack of development in schools and at youth level. It’s easy to therefore suggest that the lack of discipline in the Top 14 correlates to a lack of early development. But the players in question aren’t just French; they fall right across the international spectrum, creating a wider issue.

With the rugby world embroiled in the player welfare debate and the prevention of injury, the Top 14 bosses need to take note. Fifty-six cards in five rounds is excessive and clubs need to clamp down on their players’ actions.

With round six coming up this weekend, expect further moments of madness and the constant need for referees to resort to their cards. Until the league acts, Clermont and co will need to be on their best behaviour.

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