Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching


A rugby moral code will never happen by David Clarke

Mike Tindall torn shirt

What is acceptable and unacceptable in rugby?

Some coaches will condone cheating because they know that it allows their team to win. Some coaches will condone pushing the laws to their limit because it allows their team to win. Some coaches will forgive referee’s mistakes when it benefits their side, because it allows their team to win.

Moralising about rugby is what the governing bodies do. Play safe, play fair is the message they are duty bound to tell us. And quite rightly so.

But in the reality of a league match, international fixture or a youth cup game, what coach is not going to find themselves in a moral dilemma about whether to bend the rules a little bit.

“If I don’t do it and the other team does, and we lose, what then?” is a well worn excuse. However, it has some validity.

The law of the game and the law of the rugby jungle work closely together. Though we don’t see too many pictures like that of Mike Tindall these days, plenty of players and coaches will tell you that stopping a player lying over the ball is tough in the modern game. A helping of “shoe pie” will remind a player not to be there next time.

The law of the rugby jungle is about tough love. Physical pain against the whistle of the referee. But this attitude will not make players stop transgressing in the future. Jungle law is about punishment after the problem, and does not make prevention an option. “I will continue to lie over the ball until I get thumped and then I will stop” won’t make for a better game.

It would be much better if players and coaches didn’t cheat in the first place. It is like a game of bluff in the bar after the game. Who is going to pull out of it first. The team that decides to be whiter than whiter will probably lose against the team that continues to cheat. Who is willing to take that risk?

Better Rugby Coaching

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1 Comment so far
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Fine, as far as it goes. However, in the specific case you mention, Tindall wasn’t lying over the ball, but was on his feet, rucking legitimately.

The French trangressor deliberately came in from the side, and miles offside, to rake down Tindall’s back – right in front of the linesman!

No penalty for such a cheap shot?

Personally, I think any game (and any sport) is ruined by cheap shots – cheating, and not by legimate attempts to keep the opposition “honest” – action to stop them cheating.

Comment by TobyC




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