All Blacks shrug off calls for red-card reform

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Ofa Tu'ungafasi of the All Blacks is sent off during the Tri-Nations match against the Wallabies in Brisbane on 7 November 2020.
Ofa Tu'ungafasi of the All Blacks is sent off during the Tri-Nations match against the Wallabies in Brisbane on 7 November 2020.
Chris Hyde/Getty Images

The All Blacks on Tuesday played down calls for changes to rugby's red-card system after pundits claimed that last week's Test between Australia and New Zealand was ruined when two players were sent off.

The Test in Brisbane ended in an upset 24-22 victory for the Wallabies but much of the post-match debate has centred on the red cards shown to Australia's Lachie Swinton and New Zealand's Ofa Tu'ungafasi.

Both were marched for reckless high tackles in the first half, with their absence contributing to a chaotic match that was thrilling to watch but upset some rugby purists.

Veterans such as former All Blacks John Kirwan and Christian Cullen, along with ex-Wallabies Phil Kearns and Tim Horan, claimed red cards were "ruining the spectacle" of the game.

Kirwan has suggested that, rather than being sent off, players who accidentally tackle high should be sin-binned for 10 minutes, then hauled before the judiciary to face bans.

However, All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree said that, regardless of intent, the rules were designed to protect players and everyone on the field needed to follow them.

"We've got an obligation to ensure on the field that the players are safe," he told reporters in a conference call.

"When we're coaching the players, we're always talking about body height and making sure that in contact we do the right thing and target the right areas.

"But at times, the player's going to get that wrong under pressure and we saw that on the weekend."

Sanzaar has slapped Swinton with a four-match ban after the flanker pleaded guilty to making a dangerous tackle, while prop Tu'ungafasi will face the southern hemisphere governing body's judiciary later on Tuesday.

New Zealand lock Sam Whitelock, the recipient of Swinton's head-high shot, said he was comfortable with the rules as they stood.

"For me, it doesn't really matter how it's reffed or ruled, as long as it's consistent by the referee and the judiciary," he said.

World Rugby last year ordered a clampdown on reckless tackles that make contact with the head amid concerns about concussion and long-term brain injuries.

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