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Spotlight on Rolland after he shows red to Warburton

Irishman Alain Rolland is the focus of all the talk following Wales’ one-point exit from the Rugby World Cup.

Image: Christophe Ena/AP/Press Association Images

THE NATION LONGED for Irish involvement in a Rugby World Cup semi-final but little did we think it would come in the form of referee Alain Rolland.

The 45-year-old Dubliner was the centre of attention following Wales’ narrow 9-8 defeat to France on Saturday – his decision to show a red card to Welsh back row Sam Warburton, for a dangerous tackle on Vincent Clerc, drawing furious reaction.

The referee’s Wikipedia account was changed and later re-edited following the incident and there was a wide mix of reaction from players, experts and observers alike.

Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones said that Rolland’s decision was “wrong” and “wreck(ed) the game” and, speaking at half-time during ITV’s coverage, former World Cup winner Francois Pienaar said: “It was a dangerous tackle, yes. A penalty, yes. Never a red card.

“Sam Warburton has been one of the cleanest players at the World Cup. He (Rolland) has killed the game. I’m livid.”

However, the International Rugby Board (IRB) has clamped down on dangerous tackling ever since the incident that saw Brian O’Driscoll injured on the British & Irish Lions tour in New Zealand in 2005. The updated law states:

“It is dangerous play to lift a player from the ground and drop or drive that player into the ground whilst that that player’s feet are still off the ground so that the player’s head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground.”

A directive issued to referees in 2009 said they should not take any consideration of the player’s intention in making the tackle and another memo just before the tournament concluded: “Foul play – high tackles, grabbing and twisting of the head and tip tackles to be emphasised, with referees to start at red and work backwards.”

As a result, Mark Reason of The Telegraph believes that Rolland had no choice in how he acted, writing: “The trouble is that under the laws I am not sure that referee Alain Rolland had any option but to dismiss Warburton.

He added: “The outcome of their ruling is that players such as Warburton will occasionally suffer. But better that than an innocent player suffer a broken neck.”

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An emotional Warburton faced the press after the game and said: “I’m obviously gutted, but there was no malicious intent. I thought it was a normal tackle, next thing I was walking off into the stands.”

Clerc, for his part, had no qualms with the red card, insisting: “He put my feet up to my head and we have seen since the beginning of the competition, every time it has been penalised with a red card or yellow card.

“Regarding whether it is a fair sentence, I would say yes. I feel no anger against him. It is just something that happened during the game.”

Wales boss Warren Gatland was irate after the game, but he will also have to reflect on the fact that six of seven kicking attempts on goal were missed during the 80 minutes and the side might have won the clash right up until Rolland’s final whistle.

READ – As it happened: Wales v France

READ – Ref report card: Alain Rolland’s Rugby World Cup (so far)

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