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It is very clear that Rolland had no choice other than to send-off Warburton. The IRB directive from 2009 makes it very clear what the circumstances are that justify a Red Card and that a referee must start by considering a Red Card before seeing if there are any mitigating circumstances.
Warburton's tackle took Clerc past the horizontal and dropped him from a height directly onto the base of his neck. The directive does not allow a referee to take intent into consideration as a mitigating factor nor the fact that it is a RWC Semi Final or that it was in the first 20 minutes of the game.
Furthermore, the judicial decisions made about lesser tacklers in this RWC have been scathing of referees who only used a Yellow Card sanction for offences which later garnered up to 5 weeks on the sidelines.
This is similar to Craig Joubert's sending-off of Drew Mitchell last year where he made it clear that he was applying the rules and that he could take no responsibility for the player's actions.
This was an unfortunate event to have happen in a RWC semi-final but Warburton blew it by taking Clerc past the horizontal. Rolland did what any competent rugby referee would do and accurately and fairly applied the law to the situation.
4 Years, 10 Months ago