The Rugby Column
- Credit: Archant
There has been some debate in the rugby press over the past few days about disciplinary panels and how fair they are.
In my experience there is still a fundamental problem with these committees.
It would appear that the more high-profile, international players are often handed more lenient sentences than their lesser-known colleagues.
Take Owen Farrell’s high tackle on the then 18-year-old Wasps fly-half Charlie Atkinson last September.
The incident was judged to be serious enough to be worthy of a ten-match ban which would have ruled out the England captain for the start of the autumn Test campaign.
Yet he walked away with a reduced five-match ban because he had a positive testimonial from a charity!
Contrast that with Exeter Chiefs player Stu Townsend’s recent ban for what, in my view, was an accidental clash of heads with Leicester’s Harry Simmons during a clear out that was picked up after the game.
Again, my opinion, but this was a much less serious offence which was met with the same punishment. Crackers!
It’s all about intent.
I’ve been in situations where players clearly wanted to cause me serious damage but sometimes accidents happen.
These panels must do more to recognise the intent, or otherwise, and make more consistent judgements.
Speaking of coming off worse, my former club didn’t do too well against Wasps at the Ricoh.
I’ve been asked a lot why a team so in form can be at the wrong end of a defeat like that but it’s quite simple.
One, there were some inexperienced players in the squad.
Two, they were away from home and, despite the lack of crowds, things like hotel stays, and different changing rooms can make a significant difference.
Thirdly, it just goes to show that the margin for error is now so narrow in the Premiership.
Unless you are playing at 100 percent of your ability, physically and mentally, for 80 minutes, you’ll be punished and that's what happened in that game.
But, even though I am now watching from the comfort of my sofa, it doesn’t take a whooping like that any easier to swallow.