Referee Nigel Owens says rugby has ‘become more physical and more hard in terms of the ferocity of tackles’.
While some claim the game has ‘gone soft’ due to World Rugby’s zero-tolerance approach to high tackles – Will Spencer’s controversial red card for Leinster being a recent example – Owens disagrees.
‘I refereed the New Zealand versus South Africa Rugby Championship match in Wellington last weekend,’ he wrote in his latest column for WalesOnline. ‘Some of the hits in that game were monumental and even had me thinking to myself “How the heck do these players get back up to their feet?”
‘It was a great game of rugby, one of the classics no doubt, and credit to the two teams for that. It was brutal and physical in the contact areas, but never during the game was it dirty. There wasn’t even any foul play. It was no-holds barred and, as I say, brutal – perfect evidence that the game has not gone soft. No way has it.’
Owens stressed that player welfare has to be the priority.
‘The laws are there to try to make a very physical game, which if anything is getting more physical, not softer, as risk free as we possibly can, but still keep it recognisable as we know rugby to truly be.’
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