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Twenty-minute red card is 'totally wrong'

REACTION: Retired Test referee Nigel Owens is definitely not a fan of the 20-minute red card.


Earlier his week it was revealed that World Rugby are to examine the possibility of introducing the 20-minute red card as a global law trial

The rule, which is currently being trialled in the Southern Hemisphere’s Super Rugby competition, means a player who is sent off can be tactically replaced by a substitute after 20 minutes.

“That’s been discussed before and will be discussed again,” World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper this week.

“It would be great if more competitions, even in a closed trial, would use it because that would give us more of an overview of the effect it would have on the game.”

However, writing in a Telegraph column, Owens said rugby will be “in trouble” if they go down this road.

“The last thing the sport needs is a situation where a player runs in and headbutts an opponent in the opening minutes, only for the offender to then be replaced 20 minutes later by a substitute,” said Owens.


“In situations like that, your team does not deserve to go back to 15 players.

“Make a clear decision between whether foul play is accidental or reckless and then award the appropriate yellow or red card.

“A 20-minute red card merely papers over the cracks.

“It is totally wrong, and if we go down that route then rugby is going to be in trouble.”


Owens’ latest comments follows what he said in March in an interview with RugbyPass.

He was speaking in the wake of the red card brandished to England’s Charlie Ewels after 82 seconds of the Six Nations defeat to Ireland where numerous commentators and fans claimed the game was ruined by the early sending off.

“People need to stop thinking that red cards ruin games because a red card is given for a reason when clearly there is an act of foul play or recklessness, and if the referee gives a correct red card then it’s irrelevant whether it ruins the game or not,” said Owens last month.

“It didn’t in this instance [Ewels], it probably added to the game. People say, ‘It’s a bit of an unlucky red card’. Well, if it’s an unlucky red card then it shouldn’t be a red card. A red card is nailed on and that red card was nailed on. You can say the player didn’t try to do it – that is irrelevant.

“If you’re driving down the road doing 50 miles an hour in a 30-mile speed limit and you knock somebody over, the fact that you didn’t try to knock them over is irrelevant. You were doing something you shouldn’t have been doing. If we are at a stage where we are discussing red cards as being ‘oh that’s unlucky, that’s accidental’, then it shouldn’t be a red card, end of story.

“This was a nailed-on red card, it didn’t ruin the game and people talking about this orange card, if you’re going to have a player sent off and in 20 minutes you get another player coming on instead of him, that isn’t going to change player behaviour.

“It isn’t going to make coaches really hit home to players you have to change tackle techniques because if you’re going to be back up to 15 men for 60 minutes compared to being down to 14 men for 80, I don’t think that is enough of a deterrent for player behaviour.

“So, a red card is a red card for a reason and you shouldn’t be replaced because the Irish player [James Ryan] left the field and didn’t play the following weekend. He was out of the tournament, so player safety is paramount. Yes, the red card was a big call at the beginning of the game, but the referee was 100 per cent correct.”

Source: The Telegraph & @RugbyPass

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