BEPPU, Japan (Reuters) - Hefty disciplinary sanctions are the last thing on a player’s mind in the heat of a moment of a test match and “99.9 percent” of high tackles accidental, All Blacks prop Joe Moody said on Friday.
Contact with the head has been a major issue in the first week of the Rugby World Cup in Japan with five players — Australia’s Reece Hodge, Samoa’s Ray Lee-lo and Motu Matu’u, the United States’ John Quill and England’s Piers Francis — cited for dangerous tackles.
Lee-lo and Matu’u received yellow cards for their incidents, while Hodge and Francis were not sanctioned by the match officials.
Hodge and Lee-lo have been banned for three matches each.
Quill was shown a red card for a shoulder charge to the head of England’s Owen Farrell on Thursday in Kobe, which drew sharp criticism from the rugby world.
Moody, who was the subject of claims of foul play from South African fans following New Zealand’s victory over the Springboks last Saturday, said players were aware of the crackdown but it often had little bearing on what happened on the field.
“We did get sat down before the tournament and told what they’re looking at and the suspensions,” Moody told reporters in Beppu. “So we are aware of it.
“(But) it’s not really in the forefront of your brain (when on the field).
“At the same time you don’t go out to make high shots. I would say that 99.9% of the time it’s accidental slipups.”
Moody acknowledged that it would provide little comfort to those players who suffered head injuries in the tackle but all the teams were working on their technique to keep the point of contact lower.
“There is a very fine line, especially if a player is falling or ducking,” he said.
“But at the same time, the best circumstances for the defender is that we practice to dip late and hit under the ball.
“For the majority of the time we are trying to get low but (there are) ones where you get caught in a bad position and throw an arm out and hit high rather than getting under the ball.
“And it doesn’t really matter now whether it’s a heavy shot and a guy gets knocked out or its just a graze. If you’ve made contact with the head you’ll still get the same penalty.
“You just have to stay away from getting anything up high.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty