Thursday, December 01, 2005

Violence in Rugby

Rugby is a sport that will die if the current attitude of the IRB towards violence continues. Half-witted morons like Stuart Barnes may argue the whole appeal of rugby lies in violence, but he continually fails in his commentary to draw a sharp enough line between the regulated violence of a contact sport and its descent into thuggery. No matter wht your opinion of the rough and tumble of a trugby game is, the fact is that pictures such as those of Lewis Moody and the Samoan captain slugging it out on Saturday, or Brian O'Driscoll being dumped on the ground head first by New Zealand, or Paul O'Connell knocking lumps out of Robert Sidoli, gives the sport a bad name. And in particular, parents watching these things will wonder why, if they are allowed at the top of the game, why a match involving their son or daughter should be any different.

The last two of the three events I mentioned above saw the perpetrators of thuggery get away entirely unpunished; the first saw the Samoan captain let off scot-free (although other players involved in the incident were banned). All three events had clear video evidence showing the malicious intent of the players and the considerable violence involved. In rugby, there is a disciplinary process which allows viedo evidence to be reviewed, and for punitive action to be taken against the perpretrators. Yet despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, the rugby authorities have decided there was no case to answer. This simply beggars belief.

Television coverage has undoubtedly helped clean up the game of rugby. With the availability every possible camera angle imaginable, instances of thuggery will be caught. That means that players have to think twice before taking the law into their own hands. TV is a mixed blessing, however. For every act of thuggery caught on camera becomes a major media incident. Replays will be shown, and most likely there will be pictures in the press, and many column inches devoted to the incident. For this reason, it is absolutely vital that when violence is caught, it s punished, and punished appropriately. When thuggery goes unpunished, the job of keeping rugby alive becomes that little bit harder.