Right target, wrong method

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The Independent Online

Welsh rugby is heading for a revolt with its new rule that deducts two points from any club whose players tot up 14 yellow cards in a season. I'm all for cracking down on ill-discipline - especially the offence of killing the ball which is making the game very boring - but this move carries a danger of causing unwarranted grief.

Welsh rugby is heading for a revolt with its new rule that deducts two points from any club whose players tot up 14 yellow cards in a season. I'm all for cracking down on ill-discipline - especially the offence of killing the ball which is making the game very boring - but this move carries a danger of causing unwarranted grief.

Clubs are complaining that they weren't informed officially of this rule revision and read about it in the papers only last week, but the Welsh Rugby Union insist it was all in the small print. It was certainly a rude shock for Swansea who received four yellows in four games. Another 10 and two hard-earned points will be snatched back from them.

There is a lot of misbehaviour in rugby which needs rooting out, but it is the culprits who should pay, not the clubs and their fans. It may be argued that the club should be ultimately responsible for the conduct of their players but once in the heat of battle a player can't be controlled from the other side of the touchline and he should carry his own can.

You could have a situation towards the end of the season that a team could go over the top of its total in a vital game, lose players for 10 minutes, lose the match and then lose an extra two points. That, surely, is not right. It wouldn't be so bad if the referees were consistent with the yellow cards but I've seen enough this season to be concerned that they are not getting to grips with the real ills of the game.

I would back to the hilt any referee who gives four or five cards for deliberate off-side and for killing the ball. But the flurries of bad-temper that are inevitable in such a physical game can usually be handled with a strong warning and not an immediate card.

We had an instance in the Swansea-Llanelli game last weekend involving Paul Moriarty, who had been fairly sin-binned in the first-half for using his shoulder in the tackle. In a maul during the second half an opponent grabbed his leg and tried to lift him off the floor. Moriarty swung back his arm to force him to let go. It was more of a brush-off than an attempted punch and he didn't even connect, but referee Nigel Williams sent him off.

The following day the referee, using the new video review system which allows refs a second look at the game, was brave enough to admit he had been harsh and the card was rescinded. As it happened, Swansea won a close match but what if they had lost after being unfairly reduced to 14 men?

As well as belatedly pardoning Moriarty, the referee issued a post-match yellow card to Llanelli's Phil Booth for a stamping offence not noticed at the time. I'm very much in favour of players being cited after a game. This will help referees to avoid mistakes like the one Moriarty suffered.

If the referee has any doubt in his mind about a violent incident he can leave it for the video surveillance to pick up. This will also assist him to concentrate on more important things, such as pouncing on ball-killing and the other practices that badly interfere with the flow of the games.

Defences are already too strong without them having extra favours from referees who turn a blind eye to blatant disruption. Allowing attacks to develop would do so much to improve the attraction of our rugby.

Touch-judges could also play a bigger part in stopping defences getting away with so much encroachment. They should be far more vocal at keeping them onside and letting the attacking team have the space to build a movement.

And they should not be shy in pointing out persistent offenders. When teams end up with five men in the sin-bin they might start to mend their ways. But that's punishment enough. Taking points off them is not the way.

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