Head shots are 'just slip-ups' says All Blacks star
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: All Blacks hardman Joe Moody claimed that “99.9 percent” of head-high tackles were accidental, as the World Cup produced its first red card amid heavy scrutiny of head shots.
Hits to the head were not deliberate and “not really in the forefront of your brain”, said the tough-as-teak Moody, a former New Zealand wrestling champion.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever, out on the field, trying to put in high shots or anything like that. I’d say 99.9 percent of the time it’s accidental – just slip-ups,” he said.
After World Rugby criticised the performance of referees in the opening matches at the global showpiece, there has been a flurry of yellow cards and on Thursday the first red card when United States flank John Quill was sent off for a shoulder to the head of England’s Owen Farrell.
England centre Piers Francis was cited Friday for a dangerous high tackle in the same match which escaped the attention of officials at the time.
Australian Reece Hodge and Samoa’s Rey Lee-Lo have both received three-match bans for dangerous tackles and Samoan hooker Motu Matu’u is waiting to hear the outcome of his appearance before the judiciary for a high tackle.
It has been drummed into the All Blacks that one rash moment in the play-offs could cost a penalty and the three points could be the difference between winning and losing the cup.
Moody has a history with the judiciary and was considered lucky to escape punishment during New Zealand’s opener against South Africa.
Video emerged after the game which appeared to show the prop make contact with the heads of Springboks Malcolm Marx and Duane Vermeulen.
Last year, he copped a two-match suspension for elbowing Australian Kurtley Beale in the head during a Super Rugby game.
Moody, a genial giant off the field, takes on a tough persona as an All Black where he plays hard and is recognised as one of the world’s leading loosehead props.
He said the players were all told before the start of the World Cup what the referees were focusing on and how long suspensions would be for but in the split seconds of a Test, there was little between a legal and illegal tackle.
“It doesn’t really matter now whether it’s a heavy shot and a guy gets knocked out or whether it’s just a graze but you’ve made contact with the head – you’re going to get the same penalty for it,” he said.
“There’s a very fine line especially if the player is falling, ducking low or whatever.”
“The best circumstances for the defender, we always practice to dip late and get under the ball so for the majority of the time we’re trying to get low,” he added.
“But it’s the ones where you get caught in a bad position and end up throwing an arm out or just hit high” that prove costly.”
All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor said his preference was always to tackle low but “the risk is you’re going to get a head to the hip and knock yourself out”.