DOES the punishment fi t the crime in the Six Nations?
The question is worth asking ahead of England’s pivotal meeting with Wales on Saturday in the light of yellow card statistics from the championship.
Wales are widely regarded as having the best defence in Europe and one of the fi nest in the world but the fi gures also reveal it is the most cynical.
Since Warren Gatland took over as coach in 2008, Wales have collected 22 yellow cards in the Six Nations – more than any other side during the same period. In terms of success, though, no one has won more titles, with Wales three times champions in that time.
The streetwise Wales team would sell the family silver rather than concede a try – not surprising given the prospect of being confronted by an angry Shaun Edwards – and if that means taking a yellow card, so be it.
“That’s a decision made by the player at a particular moment. Time tells if it was the right one or not,” said Wales assistant coach Rob Howley.
“We certainly don’t go out to do that on purpose. Did Sam Warburton mean to do that tackle in the semi- fi nal of a World Cup? I don’t think so.”
Of course, no side deliberately attempt to pick up a yellow card but some are more willing to push the referee to the precipice than others. Warburton, whose tip tackle red card against France in 2011 was a different kettle of fi sh entirely, has talked in the past about testing the water with the offi cials early on in a game to see how far he can go in terms of pushing the boundaries.
The threat of losing a man for 10 minutes is supposed to deter a side from transgressing but Wales’ defence is so well drilled it can cope with being short- handed.
England may be cottoning on. Under Stuart Lancaster, they picked up a saintly four yellow cards in 20 matches in the Six Nations but it got them nowhere in terms of silverware. Under Eddie Jones, they are already halfway to that total in three games yet remain unbeaten.
Both cards came against Ireland, with James Haskell and Danny Care sin- binned in the second half.
Care’s yellow for killing the ball was rather lost in the furore of whether Mike Brown should have been sanctioned for his careless footwork on Conor Murray’s face in the same incident.
However much England’s defence coach Paul Gustard tried to argue the opposite yesterday, claiming the decision was “unbelievably harsh”, it was a cynical act.
Ireland had broken the England defensive line at the time and quick ball would have almost brought a try.
Referee Romain Poite judged it so and sin- binned Care but the try was averted and with England holding out for nine minutes until full- time with 14 men without conceding a