World Cup’s are known for exhilarating performances, wonderful tries, huge upsets and…red cards?
Well, whilst tournaments in the past have had their fair share of disciplinary controversies, the 2023 version of the competition has well and truly taken the cake.
During the first eight versions of the competition, there was a total of 17 red cards across all nations. Within the past 2 competitions, including the ongoing one, there have already been 15 red cards.
Now, the increase in red cards will be down to a number of factors, and not one of them will be based on players tackling technique getting worse.
There has, of course, been a huge effort from World Rugby and other governing bodies over the past few years to reduce head contact. Their efforts have resulted in stricter punishments for those that break the now tighter classifications of what is deemed a legal tackle.
The introduction of the Television Match Official at the turn of the century gave officials a greater power to make the correct decision, a power that in very recent times has been passed to those off the field in the form of the bunker review system. This new system takes the pressure off of the official on the field, and gives those away from the emotion of the game ample opportunity to decide whether the illegal play warrants a full sending off.
With just over half of the tournament now played, there have already been seven red cards dished out. With the tensions starting to build as the tournament enters the knockout stages, the margin between victory and defeat will shorten – as will the amount of time these players have to time their hits.
With the tournament record of red cards set to be broken, the winners could well be the side that adapts best to playing with 14 men – time will tell.