RWC Players to Watch: Anthony Watson

Sensational Stepper Nehe Milner-Skudder

Sonny Bill Williams warned for big hit

Recap from Highlanders' historic win

Jerry Collins' club perform Haka

Toulon play the France '98 FIFA WC squad

Ruck Clean Out to dominate breakdowns

Inside the Pride, in Africa, Part 3

Jerry Collins Haka the day before crash

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Tom Varndell tip tackle on Horacio Agulla

This is the tackle that many are saying was very similar to what Toby Flood has been cited for, as shown in the previous post. In this instance Tom Varndell was yellow carded, while Flood was cited and will more than likely be suspended. 

As you can see by Varndell's reaction, the decision by the officials came as a bit of a surprise.

Later in the game referee Andrew Small sent Bath's Dom Day to the sin-bin for a tackling a player in the air, a call that some felt had a lot to do with the earlier decision.

The tip-tackle law is fast becoming a massive irritation for players and fans alike, but it's not necessarily the referees that are at fault. The laws need looking at, as time and time again we see players harshly sent from the field in a sport that is revered for it's physicality.

The counter argument would be that while many tackles these days are being unfairly penalised, the aim is to minimise the chances of one occuring that could ultimately be life changing.

All fans want though is consistency, something that for whatever reason isn't happening.

Opinions on this topic will always vary. Feel free to share yours below.

Photo credit: © 2013 Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images

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Posted by Rugbydump at 5:33 pm | View Comments (42)

Toby Flood faces ban for alleged dangerous tackle

Sam Vesty butchers try as Tom Varndell chases him down

Friday Funnies - Horacio Agulla loses his pants

Florian Fritz gives the finger after red for dangerous tackle

Midweek Madness - Tom Varndell sneaks in for a great try

Tom Varndell hatrick vs Harlequins

Posted in Big Hits & Dirty Play

Viewing 42 comments

No9scrum January 08, 2013 7:28 pm

Id agree with the ref, the only thing that stopped him landing on his shoulder neck area was the player protecting himself,

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Ryan January 08, 2013 7:32 pm

I don't agree at all, although beyond the horizontal, Varndell is in control all the way through and he is placed on his side, not on his neck/shoulder area. There was no malice and it was safe.

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Gilly_TJ January 08, 2013 7:34 pm

For me personally, this was never a yellow card offense. I believe alarm bells went off automatically in the referee and touch judges' head as soon as Agulla was lift off the ground. A good, strong hit for me and no indication of being above the horizontal and I think you can see Varndell realize where the tackle could possibly end up and brings Agulla's lower half right back down.

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SU_Scrumhalf January 08, 2013 7:34 pm

I think the ref made the right decision. Varndell did lift Agulla's legs above the horizontal, but Varndell also finished the tackle by landing Agulla on his shoulder/side rather than his head or neck. I think the yellow was the right call, but could have easily been a red or a citing had Varndell dropped Agulla on his head.

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TechnoMouse January 08, 2013 7:36 pm

For me, there looks to be a point where it looks like the tackle is going to be a spear. However, whether through the actions of Varndell correcting it or Agulla protecting himself, the tackle, again to me, ends as a textbook "dump" tackle with Agulla landing safely (well as safe as being dumped can be!). So for me this is a harsh call. Having said that, I can kind of see why there was a yellow card as Agulla's head was closer to the ground than the rest of his body at one point. Just glad I'm not a ref!

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Ottawa Rugger January 08, 2013 7:50 pm

After he lifts him in the air, Varndell takes a good three steps before driving him into the ground. Granted, at the point he beings driving him into the ground, Agulla looks horizontal. From where I stand it looks intentional. But the fact that Agulla was horizontal makes it legal in my mind, so I'd say this is harsh, but just barely, as it is easy to see how this could have ended badly if Agulla landed on his neck. It was pretty close to a spear, IMO.

But all this begs the question: is "beyond 90 degrees" the best way to determine when a dump tackle becomes overly dangerous? I don't have any answers

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Citing Commissioner January 08, 2013 7:52 pm

This is getting silly.

Please please please, before saying this is dangerous, can you give an example, any example when a player has been injured by a tackle like the one in this link.

I'd love to know when the last time referees and citing commissioners actually played a game once. I fear they all sit in their offices and have conferences about so called incidents whilst forgetting what it is like to play the game. An industry has now been created where a citing commissioner is employed, unsurprisingly a result of this is that s/he wants to build up a CV with some stats and slowly but steadily more and more and more becomes illegal. I'm getting thoroughly sick of the professional game, it's getting ruined as a spectacle for rugby players in the vane attempt to draw in a new audience.

How long will it be until a player or coach has a considerable outburst at how daft the situation has become? I think such a person may find themself being regarded as a bit of a martyr!

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Reality January 08, 2013 7:53 pm

He lands the player on his side. Who cares if he brought him past the horizontal? That tackle wasn't dangerous in the slightest. Bad call in my opinion.

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Sick and Tired January 08, 2013 8:16 pm

I really really don't understand this at all. As Agulla is lifted in the act of being dump tackled, his natural body weight shifts towards the floor head first as he is lifted under his waist.

It actually shows great strength and control from Varndell to prevent this from becoming a spear, putting him down on his back/side. Perfectly valid tackle, and I don't really see how it can bee seen to drive the neck/head into the ground. Wrong.

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browner January 08, 2013 8:38 pm

AWFUL DECISION .... someone get a grip on this subject, otherwise padded seat belts will be introduced soon !

Instead focus on tackles that connect on the chest but end up through the throat area, now they ARE dangerous ..... this isn't, head & neck not at risk, which was the purpose of 'spear protection' law clarifications

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KiwiEd January 08, 2013 8:38 pm

If your going by the letter of the law, this is (unfortunatley) illegal. So, at this point in time, it is a penalty and a yellow card. BUT. This is bloody rugby! 'Dump' tackles, 'tip' tackles , 'hard' hits are all part of the game. They need to amend this rule, so they can view each incident on a tackle by tackle basis. E.g. even though this went over the horizontal there was obviously no malice or danger to Agulla. I assume most on here have played before and have either made this type of tackle or been tackled like this. Please don't ruin our game!

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DANSTAN January 08, 2013 8:40 pm

Hardly dangerous or malicious. Everyone seems surprised a yellow has been produced. Penalty at most, not worthy of a yellow, get on with the game, enjoy some rugby. Done.

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Joe Sweeney January 08, 2013 8:47 pm

very tough tackle for teh referee to adjudicate. The player certainly goes past horizontal and teh first point of contact is with the ground is the players shoulder, but just barely so. Ref's, being human and acting in real time without th ebenefit of replay, won't get it perfect every time. I think a penalty and yellow card is just about right in this situation. The Toby flood tackle below, where teh player landed on his head/neck/shoulder is a very different tackle and deserves a red and citing. even if Flood didn't intend the spear, he initiated the tackle that brought the plyer into the air and he is responsible for the tackled player's safety once he does so. It's not an easy game to play or referee, but if we don't put safety before fairness, we jeopardize the players' health in one of the most dangerous parts of our game.

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WelshOsprey January 08, 2013 9:34 pm

Absolutely pathetic, rugby is becoming a joke. Imagine if henson did those tackles on tait today?
Varndell got totally screwed

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DJones3 January 08, 2013 10:20 pm

Takes him above the horizontal whilst driving him back and drives him into the ground. By the letter of the law it's dangerous......but in my eyes it's just a good hit! Such a stupid law, rugby's all about physically dominating your opponent, and what better way to do it than dumping him on his behind?! Sort it out IRB.

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cheyanqui January 08, 2013 10:26 pm

Citing Commissioner -- Agulla landed on his elbow, which could have easily resulted in a dislocated elbow or shoulder. As for examples, I saw the dislocated elbow happen to a teammate at a national 7s tournament in the USA.

So dangerous, perhaps... but so is getting in my car in the morning.

I think the current IRB guidelines are more about protecting neck, spine, and head injuries.

But these types of tackles are also quite dangerous in terms of destroying joints (elbows, shoulders, knees, etc.) if a player is recklessly dropped by a tackler. But my point is reckless -- punish those that out to injure an opponent.

I don't think Varndell has a bad reputation, so I think just a yellow would be more than enough. I think the referee has a quick, tough decision to make (in a game that was already a bit tense, but not anywhere out of hand for a Premiership level game)

However, if this were to be say a Callum Clark, Jamie Cudmore, Butch James type, he'd likely serve some time

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Kettlerugby January 08, 2013 11:24 pm

Finally tackles someone and gets done...ridiculous call

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al_woody7 January 09, 2013 12:13 am

Pathetic - a disgrace to rugby and what it stands for. Unless it's on the neck or head, it's not dangerous and is just a great hit.

Rugby players are becoming wrapped in cotton wool and is too frustrating to even think about.

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Guy January 09, 2013 12:24 am

Lousy the ball carrier. For God's sake: go low and put your shoulder in. Same thing goes for Goode. No wonder people get injured in tackles.

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Colombes January 09, 2013 12:52 am

As for Flood tackle in the precedent article, i don't think there is a malicious intention, but the technique is just lousy and clumsy.
As said, just above, i still don't understand why some players continue to make this sort of "wrestling" tackles, rather to a strong and brutal one in legs or chest...

On a side note, it's quite interesting how the law is unconsistently interpretated from Fritz tackle on Varndell (red card) to this one (yellow card), to Flood (no card, but citation)
Time to IRB to gather all the refs around a table and have a strong discussion

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HeavyHooker January 09, 2013 2:15 am

This is kind of funny. American Football and hockey are having the same problems with interpreting "rough" play and the thing that is so frustrating, and mentioned above, is the inconsistency of the calls by refs and citing bodies. Review the rules, write them properly, teach the refs, call them consistently and use the TMO to cite the refs for poor calls.
This was in no way a card or citing tackle.

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Hoss January 09, 2013 5:11 am

One of the comments that keeps getting bandied around is bad form in tackling. When your playing and you get hold of your man you don't let go just because he is going down a little awkward. So imho the refs just jumped the gun a little, but understandably so given how quick everything took place and how it looked.

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DaRabman January 09, 2013 6:14 am

Varndell put some shove into the tackle and Agulla's feet did go up in the air. Penalty at worst if we're going to make up rules about that sort of thing, but no-one got hurt and the tackle was controlled.
The other Bath players making a fuss probably forced the ref's hand, let's not try and emulate the amateur dramatics of some our friends from across the channel!

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Racoon January 09, 2013 6:26 am

isn't the main point of the article that the IRB is essentially negligent, incompetent and unable to effect the changes that are necessary to the rules so that consistency can be achieved in how they are officiated.

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Phill January 09, 2013 9:08 am

Look just ban tackling!!Rugby union is becoming too PC IN THE TACKLE , SCRUM, RUCK AND MAUL area's , this is the majority of the game. Now with this BS TMO it is going to slow the game down for what , some one throws a punch that doesn't connect. For amateurs yes but for professional tournaments , we want the big hits , tip tackles and the physicality along with the silky skills , speed and pace. Rugby is the only world's physical sport lets have the aggression and skills.

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DR93 January 09, 2013 11:22 am

This is beginning to get ridiculous. I think that is a very strong and good tackle by Varndell. He lifted the player and controlled him all the way down, and for those who say the only reason Agulla didnt hurt himself was because he protected himself, well duh, obviously he will protect himself why wouldnt he? That doesnt make the tackle dangerous it just means he is being cautious. If he flailed about and broke his neck people would be saying "well you shouldnt flail about then".

Anyway ive also added a link to a very similar tackle from i think 2002/3? This is a great tackle back then, so why cant it be a great tackle now? Because i cant remember anyone being seriously hurt back then.

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jetman January 09, 2013 11:24 am

horrendus decision we will be playing touch rugby next! irb sort this out please

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Waffleonmyhead January 09, 2013 2:42 pm

"All fans want though is consistency". I disagree with this if it means that these type of harmless tackles are going be a sin binning every time. It was a solid tackle on a player who landed fine and placed the ball to be played by his teammates. Wake up RFU and realise that you will lose supporters if you continue to ignore them!

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RichH January 09, 2013 3:05 pm

I don't understand this new law at all. Why can we no longer tell the difference between a dump tackle, which is perfectly safe (as demonstrated by Varndell) and a spear tackle?

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stroudos January 09, 2013 3:43 pm

Citing commissioners would make bloody good internet discussion board trolls.

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stroudos January 09, 2013 3:54 pm

*Pedant alert*

I'd just like to point out to those above mentioning the phrases "beyond the horizontal" and "took him past 90 degrees", that these terms do not exist in any form in the tackle law, the 2009 directive, nor in the 2011 clarification.

I think they're very unhelpful phrases. Refs certainly seem to be using this type of language to adjudicate if a tackle's dangerous or not, where very often (case in point) it is simply not relevant.

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Jimothy January 09, 2013 8:27 pm

Where are people getting the 'lifting past the horizontal' from? I've scoured the IRB website and find no mention of it! A quick search for the word only brings up a section about the touch judges arm movement. What the law actually says is about lifting the feet off the ground and putting the player down safely. is the link and j is the one you are looking for!!!! So by the official Laws of the game the tackle is fine and not even a penalty!!!!

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Si January 10, 2013 12:04 am

slightly harsh. the tackle was always in control. Yes it went through the 90 so penalty should be awarded by the rules but if you look only the Bath player's legs go through the 90 and his shoulders and hips are horizontal all the way. Max a penalty should never gone upstair, ref are becoming reliant on the TMO stop the freeflow of the game

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matt the mauler January 10, 2013 2:56 pm

Don't like the fact that the Bath players all throw their hands up in the air as soon as the player is lifted in the air and put on the deck.

Tackle was fine. No penalty or card.

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brian McPolton January 11, 2013 1:08 pm

Seemed a controlled tackle on the replay, but at normal speed with the Bath players complaining perhaps a difficult call...

On the other hand injuries are expensive for the teams and therefore efforts to prevent dangerous play are totally understandable, but let's not turn to football!

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Upandaway January 12, 2013 1:29 pm

correct about the language used but incorrect about the legality:

Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player's feet are still off the ground such that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play."

Not that I agree with the law but he was penalized correctly.

That said I am not sure how someones lower back coming into contact with the ground first is at all similar to being speared head first into the ground. You could argue that one could accidentally lead to the other, but then you could also say that any upper body contact could run the risk of head contact so we should ban all tackles above the belly button............ this is patently ridiculous.

I mean, is there any real similarity between this Varndell tackle and the intent and outcome of what Bradley Davies did against Ireland? Varndell's ran no logical risk of this potential outcome and therefore I don't think should be penalized for it....... Now flipping the legs up like Warburton did, though probably not intentional, deserves penalizing as the chances of head getting thumped were much higher due to lack of control. I.E. Governing Bodies, Citing Commissioners and Referees need to turn their brains on and not come up with blanket rulings to nuanced aspects of play. Same goes for the shoulder charging law.

Where this

Should not be judged the same as this

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hrybrn123 January 13, 2013 6:19 pm

The fact that this, in my opinion, excellent tackle has been compared to Toby Floods is ridiculous. Varndell clearly slides with the man as hes brings him down, this would barely be a penalty. It is legal in the letter of the law.

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mick January 13, 2013 8:22 pm

Bullshit! you cant give some1 a yellow card for IT COULD HAVE BEEN DANGEROUS!! fact is he picked him up drove him back and put him on his side. This is a full contact professional sport.. treat it as one.

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Als January 14, 2013 6:19 pm

I'm concerned about the number of cards, especially red ones, handed out for these types of incidents.

Hopefully this will change but law makers and referees need to adopt the "common sense" approach to tackling that 99% of rugby players, and the rugby community in general, want so games, at all levels, are not ruined.

Below is my blog piece on the matter.




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Figoso January 15, 2013 2:49 pm

For the same kind of tackle, Florian Fritz, Toulouse's center, got red-carded :

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JAYZ1313 January 16, 2013 6:27 am

Rugby is getting Soft!!!
When we were kids and learnt to tackle we were taugh to pick up a leg or to so the ball carier looses balance and the Tackler is in control.
There was no intention of dumping him on his head, he did a perfect pick up and drive back tackle, Nothing wrong at all.
Rugby is supposed to be one of the most physical contact sports and now its just becomming soft!

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AHayton January 16, 2013 3:59 pm

Yellow card or no yellow card, I think all Wasps fan will be glad to see TV finally committing himself to tackles, rather than pulling out like he has for the past few seasons!

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