By David Williams
Former Wales coach Steve Hansen has criticised the policy of issuing more red cards to try and improve safety and claims it has backfired.
Hansen – who is in London preparing to coach a World XV to take on the Barbarians on Sunday – believes the approach to head injuries adopted by World Rugby is misguided as a weapon to stamp out dangerous play in the game and has brought a “dourness” to the sport.
“We see a lot of red cards, and while I understand that, I just don’t understand why we ruin the game with them,” Hansen said.
“Fans want to see a contest – one of the biggest principles of the game is a fair contest – and we’re giving people red cards for unintentional accidents and calling it foul play.
“If you keep giving red cards out, people will think the game’s dirty so it’s imploding upon itself.
“It’s easy for me to sit here and have all the answers, but somehow we’ve got to bring a more common-sense approach to finding a solution rather than just a penalty.
“I wonder if we do this because we want to be able to say, ‘Well, at least we’ve done that’ if we then go to a court hearing?
“That’s pretty cynical of me to think like that, but I can’t help it because sending players off is not fixing the problem.
“Is the data saying we are getting less head knocks by doing what we are doing at the moment? I don’t think so.”
Alun Wyn Jones – who announced his international retirement last week – is included in the Barbarians squad to face Hansen’s team.
So, too, are Jones’ former Wales teammates Aaron Wainwright and Gareth Anscombe.
The World XV squad includes Dragons and Wales hooker Elliot Dee, Scarlets and Wales prop Wyn Jones, plus Scarlets and Wales back Rhys Patchell.
Internationals from England, South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia, Tonga, Japan, Scotland, Fiji and Italy are also all involved for the end of season fixture.
The sides contain a total of 1,286 international caps between them – with 650 for the Barbarians and 636 for the World XV – as well as Rugby World Cup winners, British & Irish Lions tourists, and several returning Barbarians.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) will fly the pride flag at Twickenham in response to Israel Folau being picked in the World XV by Hansen.
The former All Blacks head coach accepts the selection of Folau is controversial and applauds the RFU’s decision to raise the flag for this week’s match.
Folau will play against Eddie Jones’ Barbarians four years after Rugby Australia sacked him for publishing a series of anti-gay posts on social media.
Fascinating 30 minutes listening to #WorldXV head coach Steve Hansen. On how rugby has gone red card crazy, who will win the World Cup, how the All Blacks messed up 2019, the selection of Izzy Folau this weekend – and loads more. @Barbarian_FC pic.twitter.com/ZcJWIleWml
— Rupert Cox (@RupertCoxTV) May 23, 2023
He has since switched national allegiance to Tonga and is set to play at the Rugby World Cup later this year, this after a stint in rugby league with Catalans.
On the RFU’s decision to show support for the LGBTQ+ community by flying the rainbow flag, Hansen welcomes the move but insists Folau deserves to play.
“I think it’s great. It’s a consequence of Folau’s selection, and I think it’s a good thing. It’s an opportunity to show support to that flag. I don’t have a problem with it,” he said.
“There wouldn’t be one there if Israel wasn’t playing so whenever we can bring attention to people who are suffering in a positive way, that’s good.
“They deserve to be loved and cared for as much as anybody else. If we all did that, it’d be a happy place, wouldn’t it.
“Israel Folau is a very good rugby player. He’s world-class. And I know by picking him that there will be some people hurt. And I get that.
“However, I want those people to understand that Israel’s belief and views are not ours. And we don’t agree with them.
“But he’s a rugby player first and foremost, and he’s been sanctioned. Those sanctions have finished, he’s playing rugby, he’s probably going to go to the World Cup so my job is to pick the best team I can pick, and that’s what I’ve done.”
Hansen, a Rugby World Cup winner with the All Blacks as head coach in 2015, has ordered his World XV outfit to entertain against the Baa-baas on Sunday.
Israel Folau’s World XV selection prompts RFU to fly pride flag at Barbarians game https://t.co/PMjkAICBYm
— The Guardian (@guardian) May 24, 2023