Having just experienced a concussion lay-off, Scotland full-back/wing Blair Kinghorn is reassured by the elevated strictness on high, dangerous tackles at this World Cup.
Early on in the tournament the governing body had to put out an extraordinary statement calling on officials to up their game on policing such foul play and it has since resulted in a noticeable clamping down.
Today’s Scotland press conference in Kobe took place as England’s 39-10 win over Argentina was ongoing but media and players had already seen the red card Welsh referee Nigel Owens issued to Argentina lock Tomas Lavanini for his ugly challenge which saw him smash into the jaw of English playmaker Owen Farrell.
“We all had a big talk from referees about what they are looking at in terms of dangerous play around the head area,” said Edinburgh player Kinghorn.
“Sometimes it is accidental and there are mistakes. I don’t think anyone means to hurt people. You could just catch a boot at the bottom of a ruck. But I think it is the way the referees are interpreting the laws, that is what they were talking about in the meeting.
“Given the circumstances, it is the ref’s call. It depends whether there was any malice in it, or the severity of it. That is why the ref is on the field, to make those hard decisions. They have obviously got the help of the TMO as well. Everything now is getting looked at, with more eyes on it.”
Kinghorn has recovered from the head knock he took in Scotland’s final warm-up Test against Georgia but, along with scrum-half call-up Henry Pyrgos, centre Pete Horne, lock Ben Toolis and hooker George Turner, is one of five in the 31-man squad who have not yet had a taste of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“That’s just rugby. It’s a squad effort,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to play my part in training and prepare the match-day 23 as best I can. Obviously everyone wants to play, but not everyone can play. That’s just life sometimes.”
Kinghorn suffered recurring concussion symptoms during the build-up to the opening Pool A clash against Ireland but is fully clear now.
“I’d been doing full training and when I had to do my contact element in my return to play protocols, I just couldn’t pass that,” he explained.
“It was frustrating; obviously you want to be fighting fit but you don’t take any chances with your head. It was the right decision. Everyone gets concussed in different ways. I was just waking up with headaches and just wasn’t feeling quite right, which is one of the things you tick off. It chops and changes.”
Kinghorn should get to unleash some of that frustration against Russia in Shizuoka on Wednesday but insists, despite a lack of involvement so far, he has been savouring the experience.
“I’m loving being at my first World Cup out here in Japan. I think many boys are the same,” he said. “Obviously you want to be out on the pitch, but if you can’t, I’m just training as hard as I can and giving everything. That’s as much as you can do really. Fingers crossed I get a run on Wednesday.”
Much has been made of the swift four-day turnaround into that final pool game against Japan and, for many, selection for Russia effectively means de-selection for the big one in Yokohama. Kinghorn believes there is an opportunity to play yourself into both matches, however.
“I think everyone who is involved, you have just got to put your best foot forward. Everyone is up for selection. I think positions are up for grabs and everyone is fighting for the game that is coming up at the weekend,” he said.
“I thought I was hitting my form. The pre-season games were my first games back since my injury. I thought I was hitting my stride towards the end, especially in that Georgia game. If I do get my shot on Wednesday, I need to take.”
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