Defence guru Omar Mouneimne says the complex context of the controversial collision between Owen Farrell and André Esterhuizen needs to be understood, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
There has been an extensive outcry over the 84th-minute decision at Twickenham last Saturday, which saw the officials opt against any form of sanction against Farrell, while denying the Boks an opportunity to line up what could have been a match-winning penalty.
While World Rugby has refused to comment on the incident, the Boks have somewhat sarcastically suggested that they will look to practise and execute such tackles if they are apparently deemed legal.
It’s all become a bit messy, and SARugbymag.co.za approached Mouneimne to get some clarity on the tackle that has stirred up so much controversy.
Mouneimne currently serves as the defence and kicking strategy coach at the Worcester Warriors. He has previously coached with Italy, the Stormers, the Kings, the Sharks, Edinburgh, Lyon and Stade Français. He was also recently asked to give a talk at a World Rugby medical meeting that included discussions around player safety in the tackle situation.
Mouneimne explained that it was crucial to appreciate the full context of the collision between Farrell and Esterhuizen before making a firm judgement on the subject.
‘I agree it was a penalty, but you also have to take into account the various moving parts that were in play, so I can see why the different parties can make an argument. World Rugby wants to prioritise safety because 70% of injuries come from the tackler taking a shot to the head.
‘I’ve coached André and you also have to appreciate that he is a 117kg, six-foot-two centre, and in this case he was running at full tilt. Farrell is traditionally a rugby-league style tackler, so he looked to promote his shoulder and put his leading leg forward to act as a momentum stopper against such a big ball-carrier. If André wasn’t as big as he is, and the impact wasn’t so heavy, you probably would have seen him able to wrap his outside arm.
‘I don’t think Farrell intended it to be a malicious tackle, and it certainly wasn’t a pure shoulder charge or clothesline tackle, but the hit was on the ball and sliding up. Although it never made contact with the face, it was perhaps a bit high, and because you can’t rule on intent, it certainly could have been a penalty. In terms of whether it was a yellow card, you probably find that it’s on the borderline.’
Mouneimne said he could appreciate the frustration of the Boks and coach Rassie Erasmus, but suggested that they should have moved on by now.
‘I can understand that the Boks are trying to illustrate that there should be some accountability for a tackle that slid up and should have been a penalty. They’re saying that something needs to be done and that there needs to be proper feedback, but I think they should put it behind them and move forward.’
Mouneimne also clarified World Rugby’s central focus after in-depth analyses of injuries in the tackle situation.
‘The priority is to lower the number of concussions and shots to the head of the tackler because the majority of injuries happen when the tackler’s head collides with the ball-carrier. So they want to promote the tackler to make the hit on the nipple line or ball line to avoid head clashes or a knee to the head. You can’t judge intent, you can only rule if it was safe or unsafe.’
WATCH BELOW: Craig Lewis and Ryan Vrede discuss Owen Farrell’s controversial tackle.
Photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA