Monday 15 April 2013

Use your head, kick it out

There is no place in life for kicks to the head.

End of story.

It certainly shouldn't happen in sport. Intentional or not.

First things first, I do not think there is any doubt that there was any grain of intention on O'Connell's part. If there was he should be banned from the game, and arrested for assault.

And for that to happen on Saturday in one of the most publicised games in Irish rugby, and for it to go completely unpunished sends a dangerous message.

Kids watching that on Saturday are now lead to believe that that sort of behaviour is acceptable. A lengthy ban shows everyone involved in the game that this sort of thing is unacceptable.

Punishments and bans in sport are there to stop people from doing that action again. There should be zero tolerance with some of the actions that have occurred over that last few weeks. Spitting and kicks to the head have no place in life, and should have been punished accordingly.

The number of instances of eye-gouging since David Attoub's 70 week ban has reduced dramatically. These long punishments work.

Which is worse? Eye gouging or kicks to the head? If this wasn't a sporting field, which would you be more digusted by?

Player safety is paramount.

The rules in rugby are imperfect. Everyone knows that. The IRB know that and try their best to constantly update them to the betterment of the sport.

So the reaction I've seen on twitter saying that "because of the rules" he can't be cited unless it's a red card offense are ridiculous. First off, it should be a red card offense. Less dangerous tip tackles that have no intent in them are straight red cards. Any form of kick to the head is much worse and warrants a straight red. Even if it's not in the rule book, some sense should be applied and someone with authority needed to say, hold on, I don't want this in my sport.

Arguments like "this would take away the fly-hack from the game", no it wouldn't. The fly-hack is a wonderful thing in a game of rugby. It punishes lack of attention and care from the attacking team, and rewards opportunism from the defending team to stick a boot in and knock the ball away.

But a fly-hack and a reckless kick to the head are completely different things.

The ball is out, and there to be played. The screenshot shows the ball an arm's length away from David Kearney's head. The opportunity for the fly-hack is there.

What happened was careless and reckless and needs to be kicked out of the game.

If this means that the fly-hack is prevented then so be it. Player safety is more important. It should never come to that.

In a sport where players have died with kicks to head before - In 2006 a South African rugby player, Riaan Loots, from the Western Cape died after allegedly being kicked in the head during a rugby match.

Player safety is paramount, and this can't be tolerated.

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