Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Tana was right, rugby isn't Tiddlywinks

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I'm not talking about the Willie le Roux incident in which Highlander Jason Emery was red-carded for tackling the Sharks' fullback in the air. Photo / Getty Images
I'm not talking about the Willie le Roux incident in which Highlander Jason Emery was red-carded for tackling the Sharks' fullback in the air. Photo / Getty Images

Something negatively affecting the game is officials trying to stamp out anything to do with foul play.

There is no room in the game for thuggery but the officials have to use their common sense, too, and it appears doesn't always happen.

It's a contact sport. You are going to have physicality and aggression. Sometimes players will get upset and react but that's what rugby has always been like, especially at the highest level. It's competitive and in professional sport you've got to be on the edge as that's because results mean everything.

Over the past few weeks officials are looking hard for instances of foul play when there was none, and the result is a big delay and often a card.

I'm not talking about the Willie le Roux incident in which Highlander Jason Emery was red-carded for tackling the Sharks' fullback in the air. That was the right decision because the player could have been badly injured.

Or the Stormers player also red-carded in Cape Town again as the players safety was compromised.

I don't like criticising officials as they have such a difficult job but what they are getting wrong is they way they are over-analysing small acts of aggression. And when you're sitting at home or at the stadium that's frustrating to watch.

Pushing and shoving doesn't need looking at. Yet the TMO is being asked to and he is watching replays seven or eight times, looking for the smallest thing, and all the while the game is stopped. They are often making mistakes turning a push into a punch when clearly that's not happened.

It's time-consuming and a bit tedious. Wing Jack Wilson was yellow-carded for a high tackle during the Highlanders' win over the Brumbies in Invercargill, yet the initial contact was with the shoulder. Did that warrant a yellow card? Even the TMO said it was shoulder first but regardless of that it took lots of replays to get the wrong outcome.

In the Reds game against the Cheetahs, one of the South African players was taken out of a ruck and pushed back at the guy on the ground. It was looked at eight or nine times and they decided it was a yellow card, yet there were no punches thrown and no one was injured and both players never thought anything of it.

Referees seem to be following a directive rather than using common sense. It's a contact sport and players will get upset and angry at times but if no harm is done then the players are safe so just get on with the game.

By all means warn players, if necessary but don't over think it.

Tana Umaga, all those years ago, was bang on when he said rugby isn't tiddlywinks.

In terms of the weekend's results and performances, the power teams are continuing to make statements, with one of them - the Chiefs - still finding ways to win despite their injuries.

Some of the others from the top eight are showing signs of inconsistency. The Brumbies have lost two in a row, one a real hiding. The Highlanders had a win off the back of two losses. The Stormers were beaten by the Waratahs, and the Hurricanes bounced back.

The standout team remains the Chiefs, and to an extent the Crusaders, despite their bye. They are the two top teams in this competition by quite a margin.

- NZ Herald

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Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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