My wife and I are very different drivers. Where my wife will stay 5kms under the speed limit, I will be bang on it.
Invariably while we are out, she will point out when I have gone over the limit and am subsequently speeding. I don’t mean to speed, I don’t consider myself a dangerous driver, and I certainly don’t consider myself a criminal.
And yet, technically, I am all those things, and if I got pulled over, I would have had no excuse.
Teams that are being caught out above the speed limit, are also branded as criminals, cheats, or cynical thugs, I disagree with a passion, partly to prove my wife wrong about my driving, and partly because there is a difference between trying to win and trying to cheat.
Someone on here once said, “rugby laws are like tax laws; if you aren’t trying to do everything you can to get around them, then you are doing it wrong.”
I agree, and this is why I think teams that are high in the penalty count or high on the card count, aren’t necessarily cheats or thugs, but just trying to push that extra bit.
Occasionally these teams will go over the speed limit and become inadvertent criminals, but instead of speeding fines, they are faced with penalties, cards of different colours, and the occasional ban.
There is an underlying theme playing out right now in some of the World Cup media, as it always does when hemispheres meet, and that is that certain teams get more of a free ride than others.
Invariably this revolves around favouritism to the All Blacks and the free ride they receive, all backed by World Rugby of course.
As a disclaimer, this is largely driven by scribes in the North, and is not something widely seen in the Rugby Championship narratives.
Most people in the these parts of the woods understand what pushing the envelope entails, that to push the limits of our game you need to test the boundaries, and in testing these boundaries you will of course go over some times.
When you push the offside line, the force of a tackle, the positioning in a ruck, and you push this to the limit of what the law allows, naturally there will be occasions where you go over; we are all only human and cannot be perfect all the time.
When you push the limit and are right on the offside line, if you jump the ruck clearance by just a second, you are offside and will (or at least should) be pinged for offside.
This isn’t a deliberate attempt at cheating, merely a genuine mistake in an area of our game where no leeway is given, you are either onside or not, no ifs’, buts’ or maybes’.
In an era where the rush defence is in vogue, is it any wonder that so many offsides are called or predominately not called when they should?
When you sit bang on the limit at 110km/hr, one downhill stretch or tail wind gust pushes you out to 115km/hr and before you know it… offside.
The same can be said for the focus on high tackles. This Rugby World Cup has created a perfect storm of new frameworks for assessment of high tackles coupled with a natural flow of tactics favouring ‘rush’ or ‘aggressive’ defence.
This has created more ‘card-able’ offenses than ever before, and the statistics around cards issued back this up; there have been more cards issued this World cup than in any previous World Cup, bar none, and we haven’t even finished yet.
Those teams getting the cards are crying foul, and those not copping the cards are being chastised for favourites and exempt from the rules.
At the end of the day, the number of infringements a team commits does not instruct us on the intent of the team. Are they trying to push the rush defence?
Are they trying dominant tackles that crept up? Are they purposefully trying to slow the ball down in rucks? All these things do not make these teams cheats, merely teams that are trying to push the limits as much as possible and sometimes this creeps over the limit.
Now, as for my wife chastising me for speeding, I may learn to curb my enthusiasm, but consider if there was an incentive of $125k to get to a place by a certain time or to beat another car there. This is the dilemma faced by the players in this Rugby World Cup.
As an example, if the Wallabies win a semi, its a $25k bonus, win the final and it’s another $100k. That much incentive is enough to make any player start to push the boundaries, it isn’t that they cheat, are thuggish, or are a criminal.
They are simply doing everything that they can to win.