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Clever was coming in to make a tackle on substitute Russian flanker Victory Gresev near the end of the USA’s game against Russia. As the Gresev was legitimately dragged down by John van der Giessen he passed the ball. Clever came in with no rap and bounced into Gresev.

He was penalized for the offense, but not yellow carded, and cited by the citing commissioner after the match for both a no-wrap tackle, and a late tackle.

Now, seeing the citing I was all ready to get annoyed. There really wasn’t anything in the dangerous tackle. Clever deserved to be penalized, and could possibly have been yellow carded had there seemed to be any malice in it. But it would have been something of a joke to suspend the man.

Had he received a suspension, then we’d have to start citing half the South African national team, and many from other teams. Those no-wrap thuds coming in as a tackle is made are very common. Either they should be punished for everyone, or left alone.

But no injustice, really, on this citing. Clever wisely admitted he tackled illegally (calling his attempts clumsy and reckless). He did not contact Gresev’s head. Counsel for Clever, USA Rugby vice-chair Bob Latham, argued successfully so that you can’t penalize a player under both tackling illegally (which isn’t a tackle), and committing a tackle late. The citing was changed to a dangerous tackle because it was attempted late and didn’t use the arms.

Two aspects of this ruling intrigued me, though, and I thought worth discussing.

First off, were the mitigating factors in this case. Some, such as the fact the contact between Clever and Gresev was glancing and didn’t seem to injure, seem logical. No harm, little foul.

What about these?

(Quote from Mr. Blackett’s report)

There are no aggravating features in this case but all mitigating factors listed in Disciplinary Regulation 12.4 are present. In particular:

a. The Player admitted guilt at the earliest opportunity;

b. The Player has an excellent disciplinary record and is a man of impeccable character;

c. Aged 28, and having played so many high level matches in a variety of competitions, he is very experienced. He has operated at a high level in a position which is naturally confrontational, but has never been in any trouble before;

d. The Player was cooperative and respectful of the process throughout the proceedings and at the hearing; and

e. The Player expressed genuine remorse.

(Back to me now) So either you better argue successfully you didn’t do it, or admit it as soon as possible. Show your remorse and don’t be petulant at the meeting.

But it also helps if you’ve been around in the game for a while (shouldn’t, but it does), and apparently it helps if you play flanker, because it puts you in the line of fire.

And finally there’s another part of this ruling. Bob Latham also argued that a suspension would be damaging to Clever because it would end his World Cup. Mr. Blackett dismissed that, saying, in effect, rules are rules.

The fact that a suspension would hurt a player, or a team, is exactly the point of a suspension. I hope an argument that you should hand down a punishment because it will end a player’s tournament or career isn’t used in the future, because it just makes people mad. Arguing the facts, not how we feel about the punishment, ought to be enough.