RED, RED WHINE
For the French red wine; for the Welsh red whine. And we thought you lot were one-eyed. The coverage over here reminded me, with some notable exceptions, that former players however glorious their pasts, should just play golf and leave rational analysis to others.
The red card given to Wales captain Sam Warburton by referee Alain Rolland came after just 18 minutes. Now I was not expecting any sober reflection from Welshmen as most of them had been on the beer since sunrise in preparation for the most momentous morning in the history of this great rugby nation.
But in the ITV studios beaming pictures to us in the UK sat three forwards from the pantheon of back-row play in Francois Pienaar, Lawrence Dallaglio and Martyn Williams. They had 22 minutes and an ad break to think about the incident objectively and watch the replay a few times.
I exempt Williams from criticism. The man who Warburton succeeded on the open-side flank for Wales has played 99 times for his country and was entitled to be emotional. But Pienaar and Dallaglio, not helped by ITV anchorman Steve Rider calling the decision “unbelievable,” proceeded to spout passionate, biased nonsense and even 24 hours later after the New Zealand-Australia semi-final the former Springboks captain was still at it.
We all agree there was no intent by Warburton to inflict harm on France wing Vincent Clerc. If there is malicious intent to tip tackle someone and drive their head into the ground, it should not just be a red, it should be a life ban and a GBH charge. Don’t worry I won’t mention Tana Umaga and keven Mealamu on Brian O’Driscoll. Whoops I just did.
The defence of Warburton was that he’s a lovely guy and a star of the tournament and by removing the Wales seven after 18 minutes Rolland had ruined the game. I think a broken neck for Clerc might have ruined the game too.
The television pundits seemed to think that, despite the tackle happening right under Rolland’s nose, the referee should have consulted his assistants and then, not that he was entitled to, gone to the TMO for the adjudication on the colour of the card.
Rolland was also expected to look at the time on the clock and the weight of the occasion and think: ‘Hang on we’re only 18 minutes into a World Cup semi-final and the biggest game in Welsh history, I better bottle it and just make it yellow.”
The law rather naively dictates that Warburton, in the heat of battle and on a surge of momentum, should, rather than just letting go, have gently laid Clerc on the grass, kissed his forehead and sung the Frenchman a lullaby.
It may be an interpretive law, but because rugby is a physical game with serious injury risks is precisely why player safety is paramount, so rugby-mad dads singing lullabies to new-born sons in their cots feel comfortable about them playing this greatest of games.