Get Newsletter

Spear tackle - two more things

A ruling and a conference

The spear tackle is not going to die and in fact judgement/sentence still awaits Ma'a Nonu who was cited for a dangerous tackle of the spear variety when Ireland played New Zealand.

The hearing took place on Tuesday but the judge will pronounce judgement only on Thursday. It must be an important matter – a lot more important than similar incidents over the weekend, including one in the selfsame match.

This is a report from the conference held at the Lensbury Club, south London, when all the referees for the November Tests came together.

"The IRB Medical Advisory Committee met in October and expressed there grave concerns regarding player safety as a result of Dangerous tackling which is becoming more prevalent in the game. Their concerns were endorsed by the IRB Rugby Committee and as a result at the Elite referees seminar all attending referees were advised that they were to apply strong sanctions when dangerous tackles occurred.

"The referees were in agreement with the IRB referees manager that they should start with the Red Card and work down depending on the gravity of the tackle not start with a penalty and work up.

"The seminar agreed that in any situation where a tackler put an opponent in the air the tackler had a responsibility to bring the tackled player to the ground safely.

"As a result of three such incidents of players being lifted in the air in the last two weeks of Internationals the Referee managers throughout the world have been e mailed to again remind their referees of the need for firm action to be taken against offenders."

Then there is, too, a ruling by the "Designated Members" of the International Rugby Board, a quiet one it seems. Our attention was drawn to this by kind Bob Underwood of Virginia, USA.

The designated members make rulings in response to questions on the laws. Rulings are not law but interpretation of laws. They are unstable but may in fact become law eventually.

This is a ruling of September 2005:

"The IRFU [Irish Rugby Football Union] has requested a ruling with regard Law 10-Foul Play

"Current Law prohibits the tackling of a player who is in the air, either in the line out or in open play. The Law is designed to protect players, and to prevent them landing on the ground, on their heads or upper body.

"It appears a serious anomaly, therefore, that a player(s) can deliberately lift an opponent off his feet and then may drop (or 'spear') the opponent so that he lands head down or on his upper body.

"1. 10 4(e) Foul Play – Dangerous tackling.

"Does the action of deliberately lifting an opponent off his feet in a tackle so that he may then be dropped (or 'speared') so that he lands on his head or upper body constitute tackling 'dangerously' as defined in this Law.

"2. Law 10 – Foul Play

Does the action described in 1. by definition contrary to the letter and spirit of the laws and constitutes, per se, an act of foul play should it occur in general play; e.g. a player, on the fringes of ruck or maul, so lifted.

"The Designated Members have ruled the following in answer to the questions raised:


"1. The act of lifting an opponent off his feet in a tackle AND dropping or 'spearing' that player so that his head and/or upper body comes into contact with the ground first, is a dangerous tackle.

"2. The dangerous play described in 1. above is considered dangerous play no matter where it occurs in the game."



Write A Comment