GLASGOW captain Ryan Wilson has called for a change of rugby’s laws to allow “common sense” to be applied by referees to offences such as the one that saw Zander Fagerson sent off at the weekend. 

Scotland tighthead Fagerson will learn at a Six Nations disciplinary hearing tonight what sanction he faces for the incident in his team’s 24-25 defeat at Murrayfield on Saturday, when referee Matthew Carley showed him the red card after his arm made contact with the head of Wales’s Wyn Jones during a clear-out. Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony is currently suspended for three weeks following a similar incident a week earlier, and an identical punishment for Fagerson would end his involvement in this year’s Championship.

Wilson, a team-mate of Fagerson’s with the Warriors and formerly with Scotland too, suggested that at present match officials have no option but to apply the letter of the law to incidents involving head contact. 

And, while recognising that the need for safety was paramount, he argued that a lesser sanction such as the 20-minute sin-binning being considered in Major League Rugby [MLR] in the United States would be more appropriate for some offences. In that system, the red-carded player stays off, but can be replaced by anyone from the bench after the 20 minutes have elapsed.

“The way the law is, shoulder contacting the head with whatever force, I think you’re looking at a red every time,” Wilson said yesterday. “I don’t think it [Fagerson’s action] should be a red, because I don’t think it was dangerous play in any way, but that’s the problem with the laws at the moment - they state if there’s shoulder-to- head contact it’s a red card. 

“So we’ve got to look at a way to get round that, I suppose. Probably have a little bit more, dare I say, common sense coming into those decisions. Let’s have a little bit of leniency there, or try to find ways to stop ruining the game.

“I’ve heard that the MLR are talking about maybe having a 20-minute red card, which seems quite interesting. So you get a red card and that player goes off for 20 minutes and I don’t think you can bring him back on.

“The amount of times we see these red cards given to things that sometimes can’t be avoided, or they’re not cynical, you don’t mean to do it . . . . It sometimes just destroys the game a little bit in such big games as that. Without that red card, Scotland go on
and win. It’s a difficult one.”

The MLR trialled the 20-minute system last year and plan to implement it fully when their new season begins. Under their proposal, all red-card offences would be treated in the same way, with a new player coming off the bench at the end of the 20 minutes.

Wilson’s proposal, however, would make a distinction between two kinds of offences. He believes that the more serious, deliberate actions should still be treated as permanent red cards in which a team would remain a player short for the rest of the game. But he thinks that a 20-minute penalty would be more appropriate for letter-of-the-law reds, a category into which he would put Fagerson’s clear-out on Jones.

“That 20-minutes thing could be a good solution,” the back-row forward continued. “So if a player does something silly that they didn’t mean, then 20 minutes is going to be a big hit for them, but at least you’re going to get a player back on the field and you can go again with 15 men.

“It’s hard. If you think about the rules and how these red-cards work, my idea is these ones that you might call accidental, like someone falling into a tackle and hitting the shoulder of the oncoming player, that would be one of those red cards when you go off for 20 minutes and someone else can then come back on. 

“I’m not talking about going out there and punching someone and 20 minutes later you can bring someone on. That wouldn’t be good for the game. It’s a straight-up red card, because otherwise it would be chaos.

“I just think there needs to be a tweak of the laws somewhere around that. Obviously you have to look after the safety of the players, but you’re going to get hit in the head when you’re in a ruck.”

The timing of the Fagerson hearing was announced yesterday in a brief press release by the Six Nations. It said: “The
Scotland No 3, Zander Fagerson, was red-carded during the Scotland v Wales match last Saturday 13th February 2021 for an infringement of Law 9.20 (a) & (b) (Dangerous play in a ruck or maul.  

A player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul.  A player must not make contact with an opponent above the line of the shoulders). A disciplinary hearing will take place tomorrow evening by video conference.”