WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Two of the world's top rugby players both expressed concerns Monday about the way in which the contest for possession in the air is being refereed
All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett and Wallabies fullback Israel Folau have called on World Rugby to clarify rules of engagement in the air.
Barrett suffered a concussion during the second match of the All Black's three tests against France last month when he came into contact with France fullback Benjamin Fall while leaping to win the ball in the air. Fall received a red card for his part in the incident in which he accidentally stepped into Barrett's path, causing him to fall heavily on his head.
World Rugby reviewed the incident and subsequently canceled the red card awarded against Fall while at the same time saying Australian referee Angus Gardiner was correct under the rules in awarding the red card.
In a separate incident, Folau received a yellow card in the final match of Australia's series against Ireland and later received a one-match suspension for an aerial challenge on Ireland captain Peter O'Mahony.
Speaking to reporters in Sydney on Monday, Folau said he would not change the way he competes for possession in the air despite his suspension. He said he would like more clarity about what is permitted in the area, which has led to an increasing number of red and yellow cards being awarded even in cases where referees believed there was not intent to cause harm.
"I'll still keep attacking the ball the way I do," Folau said. "I think going forward I'd like to see a little bit more clarity within that particular area of the game, not only for myself but other players involved in those aerial contests."
Folau said he was aware it was the responsibility of all players to ensure a player in the air is able to land safely. But he said contact between players was inevitable and should be refereed accordingly.
"When you go into a contest in the air, you are going to make contact with the opposing player," he said. "It's not going to be always clean in the sense that there won't be any contact but I understand the dangers of being in the air.
"The last thing you want for yourself or for the opposing player is for anyone to get any serious injury."
Barrett, who missed the third test against France because of the injury he suffered a week earlier, said the contest in the air was an important part of the game which he hoped would not be lost.
"It will be a shame if it's taken away," he said. "I just think we need a bit of clarity around the ruling so referees can be 100 per cent clear on if it's intentional, if it's unintentional, if it's a penalty, if it's a yellow card and so on."