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Black is the colour to end red-card muddle over misjudged tackles | Robert Kitson


The dismissal of Will Spencer against Wasps for a challenge without malice exposed the need for a lighter sanction

We will come to the rights and wrongs shortly but imagine for a moment you are a rugby player in a packed defensive line. The opposition are moving the ball at pace towards your side of the field and you have to make a split-second judgment. Is the ball destined to reach the individual you are marking or will it disappear out the back to someone else? You are a forward, paid to tackle hard for a living. Missing is unthinkable. You wait … and then launch yourself. Uh, oh. The ball has gone and your target’s head has slightly dipped. Damn it. Too late now.

Thoughts of a similar nature will have flashed through Will Spencer’s mind in Coventry on Sunday shortly before his shoulder caught the head and neck of Wasps’ Tommy Taylor and prompted a red card that has split opinion. On one side are old pros who saw it as an occupational hazard, part of rugby, one of those unfortunate things. On the other are lawmakers and concussion experts, for whom even a glancing blow to the head is cause for concern. Rugby’s increasingly worrying problem is that both camps are entirely correct.

Related: Controversial Leicester red card spoils eight-try classic as Wasps prevail

Related: Rugby union: talking points from the Premiership’s weekend action

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