Gregor Townsend has expressed his dismay at the decision not to cite South African centre Jesse Kriel for his challenge on Scotland No 8 Jack Dempsey in the opening minute of Sunday’s World Cup clash in Marseilles.

“I was very surprised,” said the Scotland head coach. “For me, these are the types of tackles we have to get out of the game

“I’ve been in working parties with other coaches where we have looked at high tackles, and high tackles with line-speed. If it was a tackle that didn’t end up with head contact, I’d still say it was a very risky tackle that we don’t want to see in the game.

“But there was clearly head contact and nobody is going to tell me there wasn’t. The player has told me, [and] I have seen the footage and the stills.

“So, yeah, it was very surprising to us that it never got highlighted at the time and as surprising that it wasn’t cited.

Although World Rugby have made no official statement, Rugby Pass – the website which is owned and operated by the global governing body – said: “To provide a clearer perspective on what the Citing Commissioner would have assessed, it is crucial to understand that they would have meticulously reviewed all available camera angles in both real-time and slow-motion. The ultimate aim would have been to ascertain whether there was clear and obvious foul play, specifically any instance of head contact.

“TMO Ben Whitehouse, who would have been tasked with alerting referee Angus Gardner should foul play have occurred, is understood to have dealt with it live during the match. Their assessment of the situation was that there was no clear and obvious foul play, which aligns with the standard set for such cases.

“The fact that no citing has since been made with the 36-hour window suggests that Whitehouse’s call has been vindicated by the citing commissioner.”

Dempsey was not seriously injured in the incident. He played on without undertaking a Head Injury Assessment and took a full part in training yesterday, but Townsend stressed that it should be the act not the outcome which is judged.

He also pointed out that Scotland would not benefit from a retrospective sanction for Kriel and explained that he was speaking out due to concern that a lack of consistency will undermine efforts to make the game safer.
“I can only surmise that they felt that the head contact was not the main force; that the main force was through the chest,” he shrugged. “But there was head contact, our player said straight away that he had been hit in the head. After a few phases, there was a scrum, we had seen the incident and we said the same to the referee. He said he had to wait until the TMO [Television Match Official] came in.

“We put ourselves in the hands of the people watching. Unless our players roll around injured and get someone to come on to treat them, you trust the system.

"If they [World Rugby] are saying there was no head contact, it’s clearly not true. It came on the big screen, the angle that clearly shows it was head-on-head. It’s a scratch your head moment.

“That type of tackle is the one we want out of the game. Upright, high speed and not in control. It could lead to a serious injury and we’ve got to protect the players. I’m thankful that it didn’t lead to a serious injury, but that shouldn’t be the determining factor in whether someone gets checked, penalised or carded for that tackle.”

Scotland returned to training yesterday for the first time since their defeat to South Africa, with 32 of the 33-man squad in attendance. Luke Crosbie – who has recovered from the rib injury he has been nursing for the last few weeks but was ill overnight – was the only absentee.
Finn Russell, who suffered a bang to the rubs against South Africa, completed the whole session, while George Horne and Ewan Ashman did not take part in the contact element as they have not yet completed their return to play protocols following concussions last week.

Ali Price finished the session early due to a tight groin but Townsend said: “I don’t think it will be anything serious”.