WELLINGTON - Southern hemisphere rugby coaches have expressed annoyance at some of the disciplinary decisions made during the June internationals and said the sport was in danger of becoming a 'nanny state' if the rules are not addressed.
Wallabies fullback Israel Folau faces a disciplinary hearing later this week, which could rule him out of the New South Wales Waratahs push for the Super Rugby playoffs, after he was issued with a warning from a citing commissioner following the 20-16 loss to Ireland in the third and last Test of the series Sydney on Saturday.
As Folau was also yellow carded for another, similar offence when he made contact with Ireland's captain Peter O'Mahony in mid-air, the warning meant he must now face a hearing. O'Mahony fell heavily during the yellow card incident, which was not helped by his lifter, CJ Stander, losing grip of his fellow loose forward's jersey.
"Personally, I think it's an interesting decision to even send him there," Waratahs assistant coach Simon Cron told reporters in Sydney on Monday of Folau's disciplinary hearing. "It'd be a bit of a nanny state if they pull him... (and) I'd be stunned if he's not available."
Cron said Folau had been contesting for the ball both times and found it difficult to ascertain how his actions had been in breach of the rules. "My understanding of the law is that when you're both competing for the ball, you're both competing for the ball," he added. "The only way around that is maybe we change the sport and say you're not allowed to leave the ground and turn it into under-12s."
While coaches accept that player safety is paramount, Cron's frustrations echo those of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. New Zealand beat France 3-0 in a series that was blighted by controversial disciplinary decisions, including a red card to French fullback Benjamin Fall in the second test for making contact with All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett in mid-air.
Referee Angus Gardner appeared reluctant to give Fall the red card, telling him he had no other option as France were reduced to 14 men after just 12 minutes. The sanction was later rescinded by a disciplinary hearing, which caused Rugby Australia to back Gardner, who they described as being "confused" as to the clarity of the rules, which he felt he had applied correctly.
"It has got to a point where we have got to do something. Because it is starting to affect the game and its affecting the people who referee the game," Hansen told reporters. "I think they have set a precedent, haven't they, when Angus did everything by the book with the French red card and then they let him (Fall) off. They now have to go away and have a look at it themselves. It must be obvious to them, as well as us. Common sense should surely prevail."