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14th Dec 2016

Clive Woodward’s comments on Dylan Hartley are downright pathetic

Defending the indefensible

Sean McMahon

Add his name to the inexcusable list of Dylan Hartley defenders.

This is getting beyond a joke now.

Clive Woodward has come out with arguably the most ridiculous and unbelievable comments surrounding the Dylan Hartley saga, which shows no signs of ending.

Warren Gatland has already stated that the England captain will remain in the hunt for the Lions captaincy, regardless of his latest misdemeanor.

Add these names to Ian McGeechan and the RFU’s chief executive, Ian Ritchie, and its getting hard to believe that that so many well respected people in the game are casting a blind eye to Hartley’s behaviour.

Arguably the most outrageous and baffling opinions out of all these figures have come from Woodward in his column for the Daily Mail.

Woodward begins his piece by stating that Hartley’s latest showing of indiscipline should not rule him out of both the English and Lions captaincy.

“If Hartley receives a suspension, it absolutely should not deprive him of either the England captaincy or see him drop out as a candidate to skipper the Lions.”

Woodward argues this point by stating that his challenge on O’Brien warranted a yellow but only possibly a red card.

We find this difficult to comprehend – 10 whole minutes for a clothesline-style challenge into back of a player’s head. The former English coach then goes on to go through the challenge in detail, outlining how it was meant to be a legal tackle.

“It looked like he wanted to tackle Sean O’Brien — very hard — legally at torso height. His arm was out because he was actually looking to make a legal tackle and wrap one arm around his opponent as the law requires. It would have been a shuddering collision but not illegal.”

Lets remind ourselves of the incident again, just to fully reinforce the ridiculousness of Woodward’s comments.

Hartley O'Brien

You can see from the clip that this was a swipe – a sudden swing of the arm which never was intended to be a tackle.

Of course, it would have been an illegal tackle regardless of where his arm made contact – a stiff swinging arm isn’t going to wrap around a player in an attempt to complete a tackle.

The bottom line here is that there was intent to seriously hurt a player and its disgraceful that Woodward ignores this. Woodward then goes on to state, rather unbelievably, that this was Hartley marginally stepping over the line.

“And the reality is that such players can overstep the line. Sometimes badly and unacceptably, sometimes marginally. This was the latter.” 

The worrying thing about all this, is that many people will read Woodward’s comments.

Most people will be able to form their own opinions on the incident but many others will also be influenced what is written by respective figures, like Woodward, in the media.

When World Rugby is trying to implement a new philosophy in the game – where tackles such as this should be heavily punished and rightly condemned – opinions such as Woodward’s are irresponsible for the way in which the game is viewed by people from the outside.

He should know better.

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