Zander Fagerson red card: Ryan Wilson proposes 20-minute sin-bins to deal with such offences

Zander Fagerson’s red card continues to dominate the rugby agenda, with the general consensus being that while the dismissal was correct according to the letter of the law, the decision seemed harsh.

Zander Fagerson is facing a Six Nations disciplinary hearing following his red card against Wales. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Ryan Wilson, a clubmate of Fagerson’s at Glasgow Warriors, believes such cases could be dealt with better and has suggested a 20-minute sin-bin for the type of offence witnessed at Murrayfield in Saturday’s Six Nations game.

The Scotland prop was given his marching orders for charging into a ruck against Wales and making contact with the head of Wyn Jones.

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It was deemed dangerous play by referee Matthew Carley and Fagerson will face a disciplinary hearing via video link on Tuesday evening.

Ryan Wilson believes Zander Fagerson was unlucky to be sent off and there was nothing malicious in his challenge. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

Such ruck clear-outs are commonplace and Wilson would like to see a degree of leniency applied.

Other nations, including New Zealand and Australia, have experimented with extended sin-bins and there is also a proposal for a 20-minute sin-bin in Major League Rugby in the United States.

“The way the law is, shoulder contacting the head with whatever force, I think you’re looking at a red every time,” said Wilson, who hopes to return to action on Friday when Glasgow host Ulster after a month-long hiatus for his club.

“I don’t think it should be a red, because I don’t think it was dangerous play in any way, but that’s the problem with the laws at the moment - they state if there’s shoulder-to-head contact it’s a red card. So we’ve got to look at a way to get round that, I suppose. Probably have a little bit more, dare I say, common sense coming into those decisions.

Ryan Wilson will return to action when Glasgow Warriors host Ulster on Friday. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

“I’ve heard that the MLR [in the US] are talking about maybe having a 20-minute red card, which seems quite interesting. So you get a red card and that player goes off for 20 minutes and I don’t think you can bring him back on.”

The American proposal downgrades the impact of a red card and would see the offending team go down to 14 players for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, the player who was sent off can be replaced with any other player on the bench and the team plays with 15 for the rest of the game. The red carded player cannot return to the field and will go through all subsequent disciplinary procedures.

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The logic behind the plan is that the game will remain competitive and won’t be ruined by the red card. A similar system was trialed in the Super Rugby tournaments in New Zealand and Australia last summer.

Wilson believes there was no malice in Fagerson’s challenge and is keen to make the distinction between this type of “accidental” offence and a more overtly violent, deliberate act.

“If you think about the rules and how these red cards work, my idea is these ones that you might call accidental, like someone falling into tackle and hitting the shoulder of the oncoming player, that would be one of those red cards when you go off for 20 minutes and someone else can then come back on. Punching someone in the face doesn’t warrant that – it’s a straight up red card because otherwise it would be chaos.

“I don’t think Zander was trying to do damage, he was clearing out the ruck and the player’s head has popped up at the last minute.

“The amount of times we see these red cards given to things that sometimes can’t be avoided, or they’re not cynical, you don’t mean to do it. It sometimes just destroys the game.

“Without that red card, Scotland go on and win.”

While acknowledging the player safety is paramount, Wilson would like to see the laws “tweaked”.

“As stupid as it sounds, we just steam into those rucks and you just try to clear bodies out the way,” said the back-row forward.

“If a head pops up at the last minute what are you meant to do? It’s not a lack of clarity as I know if that happens it’s probably going to be a red card.

“I just think there needs to be a tweak of the laws somewhere around that. Obviously you have to look after the safety of the players but you’re going to get hit in the head when you’re in a ruck.

“The 20-minute red-card thing could be a good solution to it. So, if a player does something silly that they didn’t mean then 20 minutes is going to be a big hit for them, but at least you are going to get a player back on the field and you can go again with 15 men.”

Wilson has not given up hope of rejoining Fagerson in the Scotland squad but knows he needs to get some matches under his belt if he is to have a chance of winning a recall. Glasgow have not played since beating Edinburgh at Scotstoun on January 16 and it’s been a frustrating period for all at the club, with Covid and the freezing conditions conspiring to limit their gametime. Warriors had been due to play Benetton on Saturday but Scotstoun was ruled unplayable.

“I’m desperate to get back in there and play as much rugby as we can,” said the 31-year-old who is stuck on 49 caps.

"I want to be playing for Scotland - but I’ve got to be playing matches for Glasgow first.

“It’s been so stop-start with Covid, and then for the pitch to freeze . . . . We couldn’t have helped that - all over the country you saw problems with pitches. It is frustrating, and you want to play rugby, but what can you do when it’s minus 11 at night? I’m lucky to have my heating going at the moment, let alone playing rugby.”

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