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Test rugby becoming a ‘card festival’: All Blacks coach Foster

DUNEDIN (AFP) – Coach Ian Foster said yesterday Test rugby is at risk of turning into a “card festival” after New Zealand were on the receiving end of scrupulous officiating in their second Test defeat to Ireland in Dunedin.

Foster said South African referee Jaco Peyper went “too far” in dishing out yellow cards to Leicester Fainga’anuku and Ofa Tuungafasi, followed by a red to replacement prop Angus Ta’avao, all during the first half of the 23-12 loss on Saturday which levelled the three-match series.

Peyper also showed a yellow to Ireland lock James Ryan, only adding to Foster’s belief that the professional game has become over-officiated.

He suggested match officials were under pressure to be harsher on his side after several incidents from the first Test win in Auckland were highlighted in the media, including commentary that English referee Karl Dickson could have taken a harder line against New Zealand players.

“Firstly, I think it’s too far,” Foster said.

“Personally, I think we’re in danger of turning the game into a card festival.

Ireland’s Caelan Doris with teammate Garry Ringrose in support crashes through New Zealand’s Scott Barrett. PHOTO: AFP

“There were clearly strong messages sent out last week. There was a feeling we should have had four yellow cards last week. That seemed to be the mindset that went into this game.”

Foster conceded that when assessing all three card incidents in isolation through the lens of World Rugby’s safety framework, there wasn’t cause to complain.

However, he believed common sense should also be applied.

For example, replacement prop Ta’avao’s sending off was unfortunate given the player had little time to react to a change of direction from Garry Ringrose, resulting in a clash of heads.

Foster’s concerns echo those of England coach Eddie Jones, who said the use of cards was becoming “out of control” in the wake of his team’s 25-17 second Test win over Australia in Brisbane.

Jones had sympathy for Ta’avao’s plight and also lamented yellow cards shown to Wallabies back Izaia Perese and England back Marcus Smith for deliberate knockdowns, when both appeared to be attempting genuine intercepts.

“The game’s gone out of control. We saw the New Zealand-Ireland test, at one stage the commentators couldn’t count how many players were on the field,” Jones said.

“We’ve gone the full hog, where everything is a yellow card, everything is a red card. There needs to be some common sense come back into the game.”

Jones supported the introduction of the rule used in Super Rugby Pacific this year, where players sent off could be replaced by a team-mate after 20 minutes.