World Rugby’s High Tackle Framework: For When The TMO Takes An Eternity…

What’s the go with all these Red Cards? Has World Rugby gone mad?

The record for most Red Cards in a Rugby World Cup was broken roughly half-way through this tournament. There will be more, that is certain.

The reason is World Rugby’s High Tackle Framework which was introduced earlier in 2019. It can be found here. It is one of the most helpful clarifications issued by World Rugby in recent memory.

This means when a high tackle occurs, the match officials have a clear framework to determine the sanction.

In a nutshell, if a player is taken high, either by a shoulder charge or high tackle, the match officials ask 3 questions.

  • Is there contact with the head/neck?
  • Degree of danger: high or low?
  • Are there any mitigating factors?

Crucially though, the framework is set up to default to the highest level and mitigate down and you can only mitigate down 1 level. (Red to Yellow or Yellow to PK only.)

If there is contact to the head a card should be issued regardless of whether it is high or a shoulder charge.

It doesn’t matter how remoresful the offender is. Or how much he didn’t mean it. There are objective markers, through a simple framework, that has been applied mercilessly.

Barring “Mitigating Factors” we are going to see (and have seen) more cards.

A player guilty of infringing the law under the High Tackle Framework DESERVES to be punished, but punitive justice isn’t all that popular.

It’s all about safety but most spectators are HATING it.

Most rugby fans recognise shades of grey in the game of rugby and are wincing as this black and white framework is applied.

But what is behind that? Most fans want grace when their team is in the spotlight, but merciless justice when their opponent is under investigation. Even the most level-headed rugby lover has trouble using both eyes when watching their own team play.

We need an objective bystander to apply the law fairly to BOTH sides. The Match Officials are highly trained and competent individuals (even the French), and add in neutrality rules preventing Match Officials adjudicating their own country, we have the best system available.

My natural tendency is to want meticulous application of the law, with a relentless dose of grace. Strict analysis according to the law and then a generous reading of mitigating factors. That’s the only real way forward, but it’s not a perfect system.

The problem we all recognise is there are no perfect people, no one capable of applying the laws to perfection, no one capable of following the law perfectly.

As it is with rugby, so too with life. No one is perfect.

The only problem in life is we have an adjudicator that is perfect. The ultimate referee who perfectly weighs our actions and finds EVERYONE guilty.

‘There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.’

Romans 3:10-12

It doesn’t matter how remorseful the offender is. Or how much they didn’t mean it. There are objective markers, through a simple framework, that needs to be applied.

A person guilty of infringing God’s law under His framework DESERVES to be punished.

We desire mercy, but deserve justice.

Each any every one of us deserves an Eternal Red Card, there is a high degree of danger, if only there were mitigating factors…

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

Romans 6:23

Jesus provides an opportunity for mitigation. Stepping in where we deserve the punishment. He put His body on the line so we can keep playing this game called life, for all eternity.

If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9

The Law is important, but so is grace.

Don’t cop a card you can avoid.

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