Nigel Owens keen to see World Rugby's 'orange card' idea trialled

Top referee Nigel Owens keen to see World Rugby’s ‘orange card’ idea trialled… but warns it cannot be used as a safety net by indecisive officials

  • World Rugby have floated concept of ‘orange cards’ as deterrent for high tackles
  • Nigel Owens, one of the world’s leading referees, is keen to see the idea trialled
  • He says referees cannot use the orange card as a safety net to avoid giving a red
  • Owens told Sportsmail: ‘If it’s a nailed-on red card, you need to give a red card’

Nigel Owens wants to see World Rugby’s idea of an ‘orange card’ trialled – but warned it should not become an ‘opt-out’ for indecisive referees.

The governing body floated the concept of an ‘orange card’ as an extra deterrent for high tackles this week.

It would be used by referees as a half-way house between a red or yellow card, and if shown to a player they would be sent off for 15 minutes – as opposed to the usual 10 for a sin-bin.

Leading referee Nigel Owens believes World Rugby’s new ‘orange card’ idea is worth trialling

When showing a player an orange card the illegal tackle would be reviewed using HawkEye technology and the television match official.

If, on further examination, the tackle was deemed to warrant a red the player would stay off for the remainder of the game. If downgraded to a yellow, or just a penalty, the player would still be sin-binned for 15 minutes.

And while top ref Owens is happy to see how it would work in practice, has some reservations.

‘I think it’s something that’s worth trialling and seeing how it works,’ Owens exclusively told Sportsmail.

‘An orange card has its place in the game for ones where it is such a tight 50-50 decision, but it is important we didn’t opt-out of giving a red card and use an orange as a safety net.

‘If it’s a nailed-on red card, in the first or last minute, you need to still give a red card.

‘That would need to be thought through before it was implemented.

Owens insists that referees must still give red cards and not use orange cards as a safety net

‘When I am refereeing a game I want to make those decisions myself. I wouldn’t want to send someone off on an orange and for someone else to upgrade it to a red. The decision has to come back to you as the referee.

‘It is not that do not trust anyone else, it is more that I am the referee on the day and need to make those decisions and a I don’t want to pass the buck, in a sense.

‘We talk about the concept of an “orange” already as referees as you do have those decisions where if you put 100 people in a room 50 would say it was a red and 50 would say yellow.

‘Wayne Barnes are I, who are the best of friends, have debates where we disagree on the sanction.

‘When it is one that can go either way an orange card could help.

The orange card would bridge the gap between a yellow card (pictured) and a red card

‘A good thing would that it would act as a deterrent for high tackles, and would be another tool for referees, so it certainly does have its positives.’

The ‘orange card’ idea was one of 10 potential law alterations sanctioned by the World Rugby Executive Committee that are now available if unions or competitions want to trial them.

The others were largely measures to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection during a game, and therefore might help the community game around the world resume rugby matches sooner.

While tweaks to mauls, scrums and attempts to reduce time spent at rucks are not intended for the elite game – and have been rejected by Premiership Rugby, the RFU, Welsh Rugby Union and New Zealand Rugby Union for their competitions – Owens likes one other optional change.

If the attacking team is held up in-goal, or knocks on in-goal, the idea is that the defending team would be given a goal-line drop-out instead of a five-metre scrum.

‘I do like that,’ added Owens.

The ‘orange card’ idea was one of 10 potential law alterations sanctioned by World Rugby

‘I have been saying that for years. The last thing you want as a defending team, particularly if you’re not that strong a scrummaging side, is to force a knock on then you’ve got a scrum on your line.

‘It would be a straightforward change to make to have a drop-out instead.

‘We see so many mauls that are virtually impossible to defend, end up in penalty tries, or held up which leads to a number of scrums – what this would do would make the attacking team think twice about being held up from a maul.

‘They might be encouraged to move the ball out more. And it would encourage the defending side to put numbers into the maul to hold it up, which would open up space for the attacking team out wide.

‘I would like to see that trialled too.’

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