The Breakdown | Inconsistent tackling of dangerous hits has Farrell teetering on a fine line

Rugby union fails to reliably separate serious foul play from unfortunate misjudgments and is erratic with lengths of bans

The post-match summary was informed and thoughtful. “It’s a very fine line and I don’t think people quite understand when it gets slowed down on TV how quick those decisions are. You can slow loads of contact down and find something. When there’s a bigger collision people look at it more. Hopefully it goes in the right direction, the game is safe, and there’s some common sense, too.”

The speaker? Owen Farrell after the feisty Premiership semi-final between Saracens and Harlequins last season. The game in question had four players sent to the sin-bin including the Quins hooker Jack Walker, for a high tackle on Farrell. The England captain, though, was keen to emphasise that top-level rugby has to be an all-or-nothing environment. “We know what we can and can’t do, but you still have to have enough intent to go forward in your defence. If you are constantly being passive you probably won’t get picked next week.”

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