They say rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen, but one of the most high profile coaches in English rugby says that might be about to change.
Richard Cockerill, director of rugby at club side Leicester Tigers, says he’s worried that diving is creeping into rugby union.
Yes, the hard men of rugby are in danger of being turned into diving football lightweights, Cockerill says, because of the way referees are managing confrontations.
This is the most ironic bit of the whole story: Cockerill was provoked into his latest comment after an opposition player made to punch Tigers’ player Jamie Gibson. The player wasn’t punished, because it was deemed the punch wasn’t hard enough to warrant a card.
“The referee and the TMO at the weekend decided that the punch to Gibson’s face didn’t hurt him, wasn’t hard and was just a penalty,” Cockerill said. “One of the comments that alarmed me the most is that Gibson didn’t need treatment and didn’t go to the floor.
“The encouragement would be that if you get punched then go to the floor, get treatment and the player will get sent off. So now the lawmakers are actually encouraging you to dive,. I said that is the thin end of the wedge.”
All this talk of not punching hard enough reminds us of a certain Blackadder sketch, but there’s still a long way to go before rugby players go from punch-rolling professionals into professional divers.
Take this example from Ireland international Rory Best (the player with number 2 on his back). He breaks his arm at the beginning of this clip, but continues to smash through a ruck regardless.
Compare that piece of national heroism with this flailing compilation from this summer’s World Cup (yes, it includes Arjen Robben).
Still not convinced? You cynics. Fine.