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Rugby laws under scrutiny ahead of All Blacks and Ireland's decider

SPOTLIGHT: Ireland coach Andy Farrell said Thursday his team will play by the rules in their series-deciding Test against New Zealand to avoid the red and yellow cards that mark modern rugby.

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Debate has raged over Test referees’ use of cards to improve player safety under a World Rugby framework designed to protect the head.

In New Zealand’s 12-23 defeat to Ireland in Dunedin last Saturday, the hosts lost two players to yellow cards and replacement prop Angus Ta’avao to a red for a head clash with Garry Ringrose.

The first-half incident appeared accidental but contravened new expectations for defenders to lower their body position.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster said Sunday that international rugby risked becoming a “card festival” – echoing the views of his England counterpart Eddie Jones, who said more common sense was needed from match officials.

Farrell did not comment when asked Thursday if New Zealand was struggling to grasp what is required, technique-wise, to keep 15 players on the field – but said Ireland had made it a key focus.

Ranked second in the world, Ireland are among the least-carded international teams and are on the way to winning 13 of their last 15 Tests.


“It’s up to me to make sure our guys understand what the rules are and whether you agree with them or not, you’ve got to adhere to them,” Farrell said.

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“I think we can debate after this series is over, but the rules are, for us now, clear.

“We’re not a side that really plays on the edge. Some people love playing on the edge and putting the referees under pressure. We tend to be a side that likes to have a low penalty count, so therefore we can try and dominate territory in that way.”

Foster remained adamant Thursday that World Rugby needs to address its instructions to match officials, saying rugby’s spectacle is being impacted negatively.

“It’s well documented that [cards] are dominating the game,” Foster said.

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“It’s getting that balance. You’ve got the player welfare side of it, and that argument’s strong. And then you get the fan-centric side of it and that argument’s strong.

“Then you get the people who are actually playing the game, who prepare all week and then suddenly that gets disrupted.

“There’s got to be a wider discussion on where the game is going and do we want to keep seeing contests that are a little bit lopsided in numbers?”

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