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World Rugby chief Agustin Pichot says the governing body will not back down on high tackles

‘If it’s over-refereed for the sake of the player, I’m OK with that’: World Rugby chief Agustin Pichot insists they won’t back down over high tackles

  • World Rugby insists they will not back down on their stance over high tackles
  • World Cup referees were publicly condemned for missing a string of incidents
  • Pichot insists a hard-line stance is the only option to maintain player safety 
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World Rugby chief Agustin Pichot says the governing body will not back down on their stance over high tackles — even if critics claim the game is going soft.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the clampdown on foul play originated in an emergency meeting following the death of four French players in eight months.

World Cup referees were publicly condemned for missing a string of incidents last week and the spotlight has subsequently shifted to every collision.

World Rugby chief Agustin Pichot says the governing body will not back down on high tackles

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World Rugby chief Agustin Pichot says the governing body will not back down on high tackles

Pichot insists a hard-line stance is the only option, saying: ‘I’m 100 per cent towards the safety of the players. It’s a question of protecting the players. It will take time to adapt to the cultural change of going low in the tackle. There will be some errors — people are human — but we’re doing every we can for safety and consistency.

‘The referees have a framework and they have to go with it. The speed of the game is very fast and some angles are difficult to see. If it’s over-refereed for the sake of the player, I’m okay with that. If that makes the game softer, like people say, then the game gets softer.

‘We had some terrible accidents. What happened in France was a big wake-up call. It’s very serious for us. We had an emergency meeting in Marcoussis.

‘We talked about rucks, tackles, judo throws and that reinforced our protection to the players. We didn’t discuss exactly how the deaths happened but we talked about how we will prevent them in the future. We needed to become more aggressive in approach.’

England legend Martin Johnson has pleaded for ‘common sense’.

Only one red card has been shown so far, although several have been retrospectively cited and Johnson fears the World Cup could be decided by a referee.

USA flanker John Quill has since been banned for his tackle on England's Owen Farrell
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USA flanker John Quill has since been banned for his tackle on England's Owen Farrell

USA flanker John Quill has since been banned for his tackle on England’s Owen Farrell

Piers Francis was cited for a hit on Will Hooley of the USA in the recent World Cup clash

Piers Francis was cited for a hit on Will Hooley of the USA in the recent World Cup clash

Piers Francis was cited for a hit on Will Hooley of the USA in the recent World Cup clash

‘We’ve got to be sensible and not think anything above a certain height is horrific,’ said Johnson.

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‘It has always been illegal to high tackle and a deliberate shot at someone’s head has always been pretty obvious to everyone. There’s a difference between shooting an arm up and catching someone high when they try to step you, which is a penalty.

‘Good referees understand the difference. You don’t want going off the field and getting banned for three games for an accidental arm slip. 

‘I know it’s about concussion and you can get injured but more concussions come from tackling than being tackled. Some of these chest-on tackles are far safer than a guy with bad tackle technique getting a knee in the head. I’m 6ft 7ins and played against guys a foot shorter than me. It’s difficult not to be deemed slightly high but it wasn’t dangerous.

‘Any rule brought in gets over-refereed at the start. The referees are under pressure and told what to do to get the big games. Then you end up with these situations. We don’t want this World Cup to be won by a red card.’