Paul Williams and Alan Pearey discuss whether rugby needs an orange card in the game.

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Face-Off: Does Rugby Need An Orange Card?

PAUL WILLIAMS
Rugby World online columnist

The game can’t cope with another rule change. Other than Donald Trump’s weave, there are few things more complex. Yet an orange card is required to maintain rugby’s appeal.

Historically, yellow cards were dished out for misdemeanours and red cards reserved for incidents that fell outside the laws. Stamping, eye-gouging and neck-high tackles have never been part of rugby and justified a red card. However, rugby is now delivering red cards where the outcome is entwined with an opponent’s body angle or positioning. Professional rugby is a game of small margins and a red card makes victory impossible for the affected team.

The inevitable mismatch caused also creates commercial pressures. If a red card occurs in the opening minutes, consumers literally switch off – with implications for advertising revenue.

An orange card is the solution. Orange cards should place a player in the sin-bin for 20 minutes. Enough time to damage the offending team’s chances of winning – but not enough to render the result a formality.

ALAN PEAREY
Rugby World writer

It’s easy to sympathise with a player sent off for a technical misjudgement, such as Elliot Daly for taking out Argentina’s Leonardo Senatore in the air in 2016. But that doesn’t lessen the pain for the victim of that mistake as he clatters to the ground.

The zero-tolerance approach to dangerous tackles or aerial challenges was a measured response to injury research. In striving for a safer game, World Rugby realise that only severe sanctions will do. Otherwise, why would a player pay attention to it? It’s like giving a drunk driver a ticking-off and a £50 fine – it’s not enough to make them change their behaviour.

An orange card would fudge the issue in incidents of foul play, giving referees a soft option when they need to be firm. It would increase confusion in a game craving more simplicity. It would send the wrong message.

And red cards shouldn’t be viewed as an automatic match-killer. England won that game in which they lost Daly, and earlier this year Racing, Leinster and Edinburgh are just three other teams to have won big games following an early dismissal.

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This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s September edition.