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28th Jun 2023

Massive red card law change set to be introduced for World Cup

Patrick McCarry

red card

The law has been trialled in Super Rugby.

World Rugby is reportedly set to introduce a new yellow card to red card upgrade system at the upcoming World Cup, in France.

The yellow card “bunker” has been trialled in the southern hemisphere this season, including Super Rugby. The foul play review system would see players sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes. During that period, footage is reviewed and the yellow could be upgraded to a red.

Referees can still brandish a red card if they, after consultation with the Television Match Official, still deem an incident to be an obviously act of foul play. However, any borderline calls will result in a yellow with the TMO bunker then reviewing if that card should be upgraded. If not, the player can return to the field after 10 minutes.

The idea behind this law change would be to still sanction players for foul play while keeping the game going. It has been reported by The Times that World Rugby is satisfied with how the system worked in Super Rugby and will look to roll it out during the World Cup, which kicks off in September.

A good example of how this system would work comes in the case of Freddie Steward getting red-carded against Ireland, back in March. That red card was later rescinded as a citing review found he should have only received a yellow.

“In the event of a 50-50 decision,” World Rugby’s Joel Jutge told Midi Olympique, “the referee has the possibility of giving a yellow card so that the game can resume as soon as possible, while the TMO has 10 minutes of temporary expulsion to decide whether this should be turned into a permanent expulsion.”

red cardFreddie Steward received a controversial red card for a collision with Ireland’s Hugo Keenan. (Credit: Getty Images)

Red card upgrades in Super Rugby

Super Rugby’s first ever upgraded yellow to red card was shown to Hurricanes prop Tevita Mafileo in March of this year. He was initially shown a yellow after connecting with the head of Rebels No.8 Richard Hardwick at a ruck, near his own tryline, but that card became red after the TMO review. He was then banned for three weeks after being cited for said tackle.

The second such upgrade occurred in Super Rugby Pacific in April. Angus Blyth of the Reds was sin-binned for a high tackle on Brumbies winger Corey Toole. It was a sickening collision that sparked Toole and it did not take long for the TMO bunker to come back with a push to upgrade to red:

In the 2019 World Cup, centre Bundee Aki was red-carded at the tournament after he charged into contact with Ulupano Seuteni, too high, and left him sprawling.

Given the fact that Aki was later banned for three weeks, halved from the initial six-week ban, should he have been yellow-carded, in those circumstances, it is highly likely it would have been upgraded to red.


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