Nigel Owens backs introduction of 'orange card'

Rugby union reffing royalty, Nigel Owens, is backing World Rugby’s suggested introduction of the ‘orange card’ – a radical new carding alternative that aims to clamp down on high tackles.

The orange card was one of a slew of reffing recommendations given by World Rugby this week, designed to provide national member unions with further Covid-19 transmission risk reduction measures if required.

The card would see players removed from the field for 15 minutes for certain high tackle offences, but would lead to an automatic citing as is the norm with the traditional red cards. Crucially, the incident could then be reviewed by ‘Hawk Eye’, who could then upgrade the decision to a red card.

World Rugby claim that high tackles are more likely to risk transmission of the virus,  and hence the orange card being one of the recommendations being pushed by the governing body.

Now Nigel Owens, the game’s leading referee, is backing the card. He told the Daily Mail in the UK that: “I think it’s something that’s worth trialling and seeing how it works,’ said Owens. ‘An orange card has its place in the game for ones where it is such a tight 50-50 decision, but it is important we didn’t opt-out of giving a red card and use an orange as a safety net.

“If it’s a nailed-on red card, in the first or last minute, you need to still give a red card.”

“That would need to be thought through before it was implemented.”

“When I am refereeing a game I want to make those decisions myself. I wouldn’t want to send someone off on an orange and for someone else to upgrade it to a red. The decision has to come back to you as the referee.”

Former Ireland international and former Dragons and Grenoble head coach Bernard Jackman told the that he believes coaches would also back the card.

“Yeah, I think as a coach, you’d prefer this way. At the moment, if it turns out that, a couple of days later, an opposition player is cited, and it should have been a red card, he misses two weeks but it’s irrelevant to you. All coaches know that [referees] are not going to get every decision right, but there is less margin for error in this [orange-card] system and it will also affect the game you’re in, in that moment, and that’s the most important thing.

“I was chatting to a few coaches this morning, we talked about it, and the general consensus was that we would prefer this than the current situation where there might be three or four minutes of a game where the referee has to run down to look at a big screen, he’s talking to his TMO, there’s pressure from the crowd, the game loses momentum, and sometimes they don’t even get the right decision anyway! The TMO in the studio might not have the pressure of having to make the decision live, he can really take his time, and I think we’ll actually get more good decisions, to be honest.”