A guest post by itwassammymcnallywhatdoneit
Rugby, thuggery, and the judge
Manu Tuilagi is an outstanding rugby player and at 20, he is the youngest of six professional rugby playing brothers.
His 5 older brothers have all represented Samoa, but Manu, having arrived from Samoa at the age of 13, declared for the England senior team having played through the National age grade structures.
Season 2010-11 was Manu’s first season in the Aviva Premiership and he almost immediately showed his potential, not only as an outstanding prospect for his club Leicester, but also as a future England international.
In boxing parlance, he weighs in at 17.5 stone and stands 6.1 tall (reach undeclared) and as he proved on the 14th May, when lining out for Leicester against Northampton, in the Aviva Premiership semi-final, he packs a hell of punch.
His Tysonseque attack (shown here about 30 seconds in) on England’s winger Chris Ashton, would have been worthy of Iron Mike himself and resulted in both players being sin-binned. After the game, which was a knockout blow, not only for Ashton but also for Northampton’s Premiership interest, a clearly angry Northampton coach, Jim Mallinder, whilst acknowledging that Ashton had pushed Tuilagi, reasonably complained that “you cannot react with three punches to the head without a red.”
In the fallout from the affair, Jon Sleighthome (ex England and Northampton), observed in the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, the following Tuesday - “I am sure that the citing officer, and the disciplinary panel will make an example of Manu, and the outside chance that he had of being in England’s World Cup squad were extinguished in a blow.”
But although Sleighthome’s prediction did seem like a reasonable one, with Tuilagi indeed being cited and the incident being categorised as a “top level entry offence”, he hadn’t reckoned with the RFU disciplinary committee, headed up by His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett.
Blackett commented that “the top-end range is eight to 52 weeks and we determined that the appropriate entry point within that range is 10 weeks." And having gone for the lower end of the range the committee then decided that the 10 weeks should be “reduced by 50% to reflect Manu's youth and inexperience, his admission of guilt and his genuine remorse."
As the English rugby blog Blood and Mud commented “He's 20, not 12 so youth is no mitigation. On the 'Admission of guilt'; he was recorded on TV from two angles punching the shite out of someone, how exactly could he plead not-guilty? Then we have 'Genuine remorse'; where he's basically being rewarded for not saying "I'm glad I smacked the bastard and I'd happily do it again".
The convenient leniency shown by the RFU for such outright thuggery not only reflects very poorly on English rugby in particular - with their National team’s pedestrian midfield now bolstered by the dynamic Tuilagi at the World cup - but also reflects very badly on the image of rugby in general.
…and for those of us, who like to complacently lecture football (soccer) supporters on what they can learn from Rugby what this tawdry episode and others (such as the Bloodgate affair also featuring Judge Blackett) reminds us of, is that there are far more serious matters than falling over in the penalty area and arguing with referees which are rather more deserving of our attention.