Tappe Henning, the Vodacom United Rugby Championship’s head of match officials, says World Rugby needs to be cautious when it comes to finding a compromise between the red card and protecting the integrity of having 15 players against 15.
World Rugby in April said it will examine the possibility of introducing the 20-minute red card as a global law trial.
The rule, which is currently being trialled in the southern hemisphere’s elite Super Rugby Pacific competition, means a player who is sent off can be tactically replaced by a substitute after 20 minutes.
Many pundits argue a red card is often too harsh a punishment, ruining the game as a spectacle, but others believe the 20-minute red is an insufficient sanction for serious foul play.
“If you want to change player behaviour in terms of preventing head shots and such offences, the punishment must fit the crime,” Henning said during a comprehensive online media briefing on Wednesday.
“How do you change behaviour with ‘soft’ decisions? There must be a tangible consequence for players. They must come to the realisation that they must take more care because they can cost their sides dearly. That’s the situation we find ourselves in.”
Henning admitted that, while more research is needed, in certain circumstances red cards have had a ruinous effect on a match as a spectacle.
“My understanding is that there’s a lot of information being collected on this issue and that pleases me,” said the former Test referee.
“We have to protect the integrity and enjoyment of 80-minute rugby with 15 against 15 that people paid for. It really does appear that at some stage of a match where a red card has been given, the contest suffers, be it in the final quarter or from the outset of the sanction.
“We will continue to investigate. I believe we’ll find an appropriate solution,” Henning added.
“A lot of research needs to be done. We shouldn’t adopt a 20-minute red-card law and then after two years decide that it’s not working and we need to change it again. Rather take enough time to develop a law with the best potential outcome.”
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