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Owen Doyle: Peter O’Mahony’s act of thuggery deserves tough sanction

Cardiff game left such a bad taste after stirring encounters on Saturday

Jotting down a few words on Saturday evening, I noted how enjoyable and exciting the rugby had been.

By 5pm on Sunday all had changed, utterly. Cardiff was ugly.

The day had started badly with the concerning news of Caelan Doris's visit to a concussion specialist in Birmingham. He is only 22. It finished with Johnny Sexton sitting in the stand, having failed another Head Injury Assessment (HIA). Thirteen years older than Doris, he has taken a hell of a battering over a long career. Ireland may want him back as soon as possible, but it may be more prudent, wiser, not to ask him to put his body or head on the line anymore.

'Avoidable' is a new word in the refereeing lexicon, and Wayne Barnes initially chose this – as in 'unavoidable' – when Peter O'Mahony kamikazeed into the breakdown. It was an incorrect interpretation; it was perfectly avoidable. It needed TMO Tom Foley to ensure that this was looked at properly, and the correct red card decision followed.


It was an act of thuggery, and if the judicial panel do not put this at the higher end of offences, then they are failing in their job. No chance, I suppose, that Ireland will impose their own suspension. Now, that would send a message.

While everyone is agreed on the sanction, the talk of O'Mahony's arm being in the 'chicken wing' position seems to talk down the action. Let's call it what it was – a very hard shoulder smashed to the head of Tomas Francis.

There will now be more talk of replacing red-carded players, or letting them come back after some time in the sin-bin, and be put on report. I have a lot sympathy when teams are down to 14, but such solutions will lead to the targeting of key players. So, you lose your outhalf and are forced to bring on an early replacement. The offenders replace the red-carded player – which is the most disadvantaged team?

It was not an easy match for Ireland's Andrew Brace but he will have left Twickenham somewhat happier than he did in December

As the game continued I lost count of the number of HIAs, concussions – who was going off, who was coming on, who was coming back. It was carnage, an awful advertisement for the game.

The penalty awarded by Barnes against Tadhg Beirne was a lot more than dubious. I cannot see why Beirne was not entitled to play it. The resulting three points put Wales two scores ahead. Poor call.

Every second year since 1983 hordes of kilted Scotsmen have descended on Twickenham in hope of victory, and every time they have returned home 'tae think again'. That is until Saturday when, with no tartan in sight, their team turned over the old enemy. I'll bet Scotland was awash with single malt moments after the final whistle.

And it was deserved by a country mile. It was also achieved despite what was a very mixed performance from Finn Russell. He might as well have pulled on an England shirt at times, particularly when sin-binned for a foot-trip on Ben Youngs. That is the sort of thing you risk at your peril when eagle-eyed Joy Neville is on TMO duty.

It was not an easy match for Ireland's Andrew Brace but he will have left Twickenham somewhat happier than he did in December, following England v France. England made life very hard and tested him to the limit at the breakdown, where he needed to be firmer.

The match was barely four minutes old when Maro Itoje illegally slowed a Scottish drive under the English posts. It was the fourth penalty against England, and a yellow card here would have sent out a clear message. Contrary to received wisdom, a formal warning first is not necessary. A warning did come later, and then Billy Vunipola was binned.

France enjoyed a spring-like day at the Stadio Olimpico, waltzing in seven tries. But for some reason their pack looks a mite vulnerable

At that stage the penalty count was mounting, at one point it was 11-1. Indeed with a no-arms tackle being missed, and Johnny May 'killing' advantage by falling on the ball after he had knocked on, it could have been more. The referee's approach continued into the second half, with England getting two more warnings but no more cards. Much too soft when strong decisions were needed.

For some reason, both sets of backs were allowed, encouraged even, to break the 10 metres at lineout mauls long before it’s permissible. That was at odds with expectations, and what we saw in Rome and Cardiff.

France enjoyed a spring-like day at the Stadio Olimpico, waltzing in seven tries. But for some reason their pack looks a mite vulnerable. Italy were awful, and we can only hope that the Championship is not decided by who beats them by the most.

Referee Matt Carley didn't have too much on his plate and was overall pretty efficient. From texts received there are plenty who find his constant thanking of players grating.

TMO Karl Dickson decided to get involved with a forward pass decision which denied Italy a try. It was not clear and obvious; the camera angle, and the passer being stopped, were misleading.

World Rugby's Joe Schmidt and Joel Jutge have been transparent and open in sharing their referee playlist with the media; it's welcome, informative, educational.

In all three matches we heard less (which is a key WR diktat) from the referees, particularly at the breakdown, and this – together with ensuring players enter correctly – led to faster ball availability. Obviously not yet perfect, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s a start of the dog wagging its own tail for a change. At last.