Former England star James Haskell believes that rugby chiefs have 'lost the plot' amid confusion over tackling rules. Officials at the Rugby World Cup have faced fierce scrutiny during the early stages of the tournament, following a sequence of contentious decisions.
The first red card of the 2023 World Cup went to England's very own Tom Curry, who was judged to have caused a head-on collision with Juan Cruz Mallia during the 27-10 win over Argentina. Many felt that other similar incidents had gone unpunished, prompting calls for greater consistency.
New Zealand's Ethan de Groot was also on the wrong end of a bunker review, as he saw his yellow card upgraded to a red during a win over Namibia.
The height of controversy came when Portugal star Vincent Pinto was sent off for a high foot that caught Josh Adams in the face, with former England player Andy Goode calling it the 'worst decision he has ever seen'.
"I think the people who control rugby have completely lost the plot and they’ve forgotten that rugby is a contact sport," said Haskell, in association with Pringles. "While efforts should be made to mitigate risks and teach proper tackling techniques, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that rugby involves physical collisions.
"Attempting to reduce the intensity of contact in rugby is not practical. You wouldn’t ask a boxer or MMA fighter to punch with less force. Balancing safety concerns with the essence of the sport is challenging, but we shouldn’t lose sight of rugby's core nature."
Tackling aside, Haskell has also urged the powers that be to ensure rugby moves with the times. The 38-year-old, who excelled over two spells with Wasps, who have now ceased trading, offered his suggestions to avoid other clubs encountering similar financial difficulties.
"I think rugby is in an awful place," he added. "It doesn’t know how to market itself and there are a lot of people at the top who don’t know how to run a sport in this day and age. We should be making rugby a summer sport to attract a wider audience and enhance the entertainment factor.
"Unfortunately, I don’t think it will ever change. Rugby is perpetuated on the belief that we've always done it that way so that’s the way it should continue.
"I believe we need to break from tradition and make some bold changes to avoid losing more teams and falling into stagnation. If we don’t, I have real concerns about the future and existence of the game."