Super Rugby red card blitz a 'one off', NZR refs boss says

April 6, 2022
Caleb Clarke is red carded.

The recent influx in red cards in the Super Rugby Pacific competition has been dismissed as a "one off" by New Zealand Rugby's referees boss, who offered some support to under-review All Black Caleb Clarke.

NZR national referee manager Bryce Lawrence spoke to media on Wednesday following the recent spike in sendoffs in the competition which saw five red cards shown in five successive matches last week.

Among those sent off were All Blacks Nepo Laulala and Clarke, as well as Crusaders hooker Shilo Klein.

“There’s no difference to last year. In Australia and New Zealand, we ended up with about one red card in every five [Super Rugby] games,” Lawrence said.

“The stats are the same this year, if not a little lower. Last week, it was a bit of a one-off in New Zealand.

“The year before, we had hardly any red cards.

“I just think each referee judges the decisions as they see it on the day, following the process.”

Lawrence said the process broke down in to four steps or questions, starting at whether there is head contact, then asking if there is foul play.

Referees review replays of Caleb Clarke's collision with Tomasi Alosio before he is red carded.

If foul play isn't involved the process stops there but if it is the next question asked is what is the degree of danger before the final step looks at whether there is any mitigating factors to consider as well.

The process was used in Saturday's derby between the Blues and Moana Pasifika when Clarke was red-carded after a nasty collision with Tomasi Alosio.

During the Blues' 46-16 win at Eden Park, Clarke attempted to charge down a kick by Alosio in the 52nd minute, but the attempt resulted in Clarke's right knee making contact with the left side of Alosio's head.

Clarke and the Blues will make submissions in an attempt to avoid a suspension at a hearing on Wednesday evening and while Lawrence wouldn't comment specifically on the case, he said the outcome of it would be interesting.

“I know Caleb. He’s not the type of player who is intentionally going to hurt someone,” Lawrence said.

“He’s a big, physical, powerful guy. There is sometimes a fine line between what you intended and the outcome.”

Red card replacements law change 'real positive' for game

Bryce Lawrence referees a 2012 NPC match.

Lawrence also discussed the ongoing trial of the new law around red cards which sees the sent off player replaced after a 20-minute disadvantage rather than their team being left down a player for the remainder of the game.

Super Rugby has been using the rule tweak for the past two seasons as the current red card rules is seen by some pundits as one that ruins games. Early send offs often decide Test matches.

Lawrence argued the current rule in Super Rugby prevents such issues from happening.

“It doesn't kill the contest,” he said.

“Our current view is that it's a real positive for the game and for the people paying to watch.”

Lawrence added the law would be reviewed at the end of the season.

“In New Zealand and Australia, we’re very positive about trialling this because we know the teams want to play with 15," he said.

"The fans want to watch 15 on 15."


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