4 weeks for Manu Tuilagi – why was Jones not reprimanded too?

4 weeks for Manu Tuilagi; why was Jones not reprimanded too?
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 07: Manu Tuilagi of England is shown a red card from referee Ben O'Keeffe during the 2020 Guinness Six Nations match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on March 07, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

“Why was Manu Tuilagi only sanctioned?” That is the reaction after World Rugby suspended the England Rugby player yet, excluded any reprimand for head coach Eddie Jones, who seemed to rebuke the match officials in last weekend’s Six Nations International.

The England supremo had been explicit in his disdain for New Zealand referee Ben Skeen, after the England team triumphed 33-30 in a tightly fought contest. The game was an exciting match, be it one where several key points added to the drama.

One incident involved Manu Tuilagi. His actions in attempting to defend his countries line, was seen as an offensive act. But, in the eyes of his coach, he was simply ‘trying to kill the tackle’. Although what Jones referenced about the referee being the Welsh 16th player was one statement that appeared to some to cross the boundaries itself.

4 weeks for Manu Tuilagi; why was Jones not reprimanded too?

The four week suspension of Manu Tuilagi was subject to a citing complaint by the independent citing commissioner, Peter Ferguson, following the match in the Guinness Six Nations between England and Wales on 7 March 2020 at Twickenham. The red card was issued for an infringement of Law 9.16 (dangerous charge) when, in the 75th minute of the match, he tackled the Wales No.14, George North.

Tuilagi is therefore suspended for four weeks and, given his playing schedule, he is free to resume playing on Tuesday, 14 April 2020.

Observers of the technique all seemed to agree that the England player was guilty of ‘at least’ failing to use his arms. He did not aim for the head of the attacking player yet, it was the head coach’s reaction post-game that has initiated a question on ‘why wasn’t the England coach also reprimanded?’

No, he did not ask Manu Tuilagi to target the head-area of the attacking player. Nor would any England coach practice a technique of ‘no arms tackling’ or a shoulder charge, yet Tuilagi and others, have a history of wanting to kill the ball. 

That tactic may be directly related to Eddie Jones. He is a supporter of possession-based rugby. His side plays the ball, wishing to hold it – and to remove it from the oppositions. So in relation to a shoulder charge, if you can dislodge the ball, the opposition may be penalized for a knock-on; your defenders could recover the ball, and/or then proceed to affirm the position of the side on the field.

The above video shows several angles of the tackle. It is self-evident, and worthy of a red card.

Tuilagi, as well as Courtney Lawes, and Joe Marler [for a completely separate type of incident] were also sanctioned.

But World Rugby has not focused on the reaction of the England coaching staff. The overreaction of the head coach is another topic altogether.

Eddie Jones has ‘history’ of attacking referees

The RFU has released an official statement on Eddie Jones. “The RFU does not condone comments that undermine the integrity of match officials, who are central to the sport and its values,” said Bill Sweeney, Chief Executive Officer.

“We have discussed with England head coach Eddie Jones the nature of the comments he made to the media in the immediate aftermath of a dramatic finish to the England versus Wales Guinness Six Nations match on Saturday, and have made it clear that such comments are not in line with the values of the sport or the RFU”.

Further – if not instructed to, or an action of his own – Eddie Jones and the RFU have proposed a high-level discussion forum with World Rugby to help achieve greater general alignment between coaches and match officials. This is not an arena for the governing body to ‘hold Jones to account’ but one might believe that stern messages will be directed at the International coach.

His constant intimation that referees are unduly influencing the outcomes of matches, is disrespecting of the match officials. As much as he and other leading coaches have [now, or in the past] asked for clarity on rulings before the game, to go on the offensive postgame is unwarranted. And it is a bad habit.

No official is without mistakes or poor interpretation. But undermining their performance; be it in the press conference, or in later interviews, is unhelpful. Jones should concentrate his statements through the proper channels.

Fines and/or penalties may in the future be required. If Manu Tuilagi and his teammates can be suspended, then a coach must be held to account. The RFU might feel their rebuke is enough but…..it seems like a slap on the wrist.

Most observers would want harsher penalties if the coach is found to act in this manner ever again.

 

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