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Rolland defends Warburton's World Cup red card


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Article Published: Tuesday 15 November 2011


Irish referee Alain Rolland has insisted he had no regrets in sending off Wales captain Sam Warburton during last month's World Cup semi-final against France.

Rolland was effectively accused by Wales coach Warren Gatland of costing his side the game when he sent off Warburton just 19 minutes into the match following the flanker's tip tackle on Vincent Clerc that saw the wing land on his head at Auckland's Eden Park.

The French went on to win 9-8.

Rolland was widely criticised by a host of former rugby internationals such as 1995 World Cup winning Springboks skipper Francois Pienaar, as well as numerous Welsh fans, for 'ruining' the match by dismissing Warburton.

But former Wales scrum-half Robert Jones made the point that, under the regulations drawn up by the International Rugby Board regarding dangerous tackling, Rolland had little choice and the intention of Warburton, widely praised for the way he led Wales to the last four, was irrelevant.

It was a point taken up by Rolland, who told the Western Mail, Wales's national newspaper: "If I had to do it all over again I would do the same thing.

"I don't think it needs to be vindicated full stop. The important part for referees, no matter what sport it is, is to take the emotion out of it," the experienced Rolland, who refereed the 2007 World Cup final, added.

"We can only officiate on the action itself and what he did merited what happened next because it was dangerous.

"Did he mean to do it? Was it intentional or unintentional?

"We don't officiate on intention, we officiate on the action itself.

"Unfortunately, what had happened gave me no option but to do what I did.

"Any time you make a decision, 50 percent of the people think it is a great call and 50 percent of the people say 'How did he come to that decision?'. That is just the way it is."

He added: "The thing you have to remember is that straight after the game there was huge emotion everywhere, which is understandable.

"But in time, maybe in 10 or 15 years, it might calm itself down."

Earlier this month Warburton, now one of the world's leading back-rows, admitted he deserved his red card and an impressed Rolland said: "To be fair to Sam, I think it is a true measure of the man he is.

"I don't think he had to come out to say anything and I didn't really care one way or the other because what happened, happened.

"I think for the game in general it was a very good comment by Sam because parents looking on would be happy to see he came out and said what he said, which might make the game a bit safer."

Hosts New Zealand won the World Cup after a nailbiting 8-7 win over France in the final while Wales finished fourth after losing in the third place playoff to Australia.

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