After five intense weeks, 46 matches, 256 tries, 18 yellow cards and two controversial red cards, the Rugby World Cup is down to the very pointy end – and a re-run of the inaugural final from 1987.
In 2007, the IRB approved a Law clarification which essentially made it clear that tackles involving a player being lifted off the ground and tipped horizontally, and were then either forced or dropped to the ground, were illegal and constitute dangerous play.
The summary for possible sanction scenarios when a tackler horizontally lifts a player off the ground are:
1. The player is lifted and then forced or “speared” into the ground. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.
2. The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player’s safety. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.
3. For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles, it may be considered a penalty or yellow card is sufficient.
Referees have been instructed not to make decisions based on what they consider was the intention of the offending player, but based on an objective assessment (as per Law 10.4 (e)) of the circumstances of the tackle.
The difficulty for players, coaches, fans, and indeed referees, is that contextual judgement and materiality is ruled out.
Was it a dangerous tackle? Yes?
Was it cynical and deliberate? No.
Was it a yellow? Maybe.
It was a very cruel way to end what has been a great tournament for Wales who deserved to make the final and would undoubtedly have pushed the All Blacks further than France seem likely to do.
As for the All Blacks, they face France in a re-run of the first World Cup final (when they prevailed 29-9). A very one sided semi-final against the Tasman rivals from Australia failed to spark into life on a damp night in Auckland, and Quade Cooper struggled to ignite the Wallabies.
It wasn’t a free flowing game, despite a sparkling and powerful start by the ABs who scored a stunning try just 6 minutes in and threatened to run riot. Australia kept them at bay and they didn’t threaten the try line again – and were content with a workman-like and deserved victory to reach their third final.
That final will be managed by Craig Joubert who has had a magnificent World Cup and deserves his place behind the whistle on Sunday. By the time he blows the final whistle of the 2011 tournament, New Zealand should be crowned champions and send a nation into celebrations 24 years in the making.