World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper says if player behaviour doesn’t change on the field, then referees need to issue more yellow and red cards. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

LONDON – World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has insisted referees must show more yellow and red cards if the game is serious about reducing the number of dangerous tackles.

Despite an announced crackdown from World Rugby, the 15-a-side code’s global governing body, ahead of the November internationals, this month has seen a number of controversial challenges go unpunished.

England co-captain Owen Farrell escaped any sanction at all for what looked at least like a penalty offence in the closing seconds of a 12-11 win over South Africa.

And there was uproar in Wales after a head-high tackle by Wallaby centre Samu Kerevi on Leigh Halfpenny did not lead to any action either.

Fullback Halfpenny was forced off in a match Wales eventually won 9-6, and will miss Saturday’s match against South Africa in Cardiff with concussion.

Several players have already been force to retire as a result of head knocks this year, with concussion looming as a major problem for both present-day rugby union and in the future when, as has already happened in American football, players could well make huge compensation claims for brain injuries.

Gosper, while sympathising with referees, said match officials had a key role in ensuring players made lower tackles.  

“The cards are there to change behaviour,” he told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“They only continue to be a problem if behaviour does not change.”

The Australian added: “The only way you can get player behaviour to change is to sanction with red cards and actually, we have probably not seen enough of it.

“I would say in many ways we have probably not been hard enough. There have probably not been as many yellow cards as we would like, and maybe not even as many red cards as we would like.

“We have not had the behaviour change that we are seeking yet.”