Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Luatua's bad weekend could get worse

Blues' flanker Steven Luatua receives red card from referee Ben O'Keeffe during his side's match against the Chiefs in Hamilton last night. Photo / Photosport.
Blues' flanker Steven Luatua receives red card from referee Ben O'Keeffe during his side's match against the Chiefs in Hamilton last night. Photo / Photosport.

A bad night for Steven Luatua has become a bad weekend as he'll have to wait until Sunday night to learn of his longer term fate after receiving a red card in Hamilton.

It might become a really bad weekend if he's dealt with harshly when his case is heard by the Sanzaar disciplinary panel. They will determine whether he should be suspended from more games after the big blindside, who was in the midst of a promising game, thrust out an arm and clobbered Chiefs wing Tim Nanai-Williams around the throat - when he didn't have the ball - and was shown a red card.

World Rugby is on a mission to stop head-high tackling and has laboured the point to coaches and players that the policy for officials is now zero tolerance.

There is no appetite for leniency and as Luatua is the first in Super Rugby this year to transgress, there could be some judicial desire to set their stall out as they mean to go on.

Sanzaar has been urged to support World Rugby by ensuring there are no mixed messages or soft punishments for those who tackle high.

Handing Luatua a tough sanction will enforce the message that tackling has to be lower. And no matter Luatua's longer term fate, his Blues coach Tana Umaga isn't going to fight the system or justify his player's actions.

"It sends a message that you run the risk," Umaga said of the red card. "If you are ill-disciplined they [officials] are not going to tolerate it. We have to look at it [like this] if you can't adjust your tackling style or tackling discipline, it's not going to be good for the team.

"We can't question Steven's want to do well for this team it is just a technical thing that he needs to work on."

Reduced to 14 men, the Blues were run off their feet by 60 minutes - a forlorn and sorry Luatua left to watch on from the dug out, mulling his obvious feelings of guilt, remorse and regret.

There was no getting away from the fact his red card all but killed any chance his team had of winning and Umaga knows that he can't afford for any of his players to make the same mistake in future games.

- NZ Herald

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