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A detailed review of disciplinary proceedings at Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup 2019 (Part 1)

Rugby Player
Thursday, 16 April 2020 By Kevin Carpenter, Ben Cisneros

World Rugby, the global governing body of rugby union, broke new ground last year when they held their premier tournament, the Rugby World Cup, in Japan. This was the first time since the event was launched back in 1987[1] that it was held outside of one of the ‘traditional’ rugby-playing nations. The evolution of the sport has been sizeable, having grown from a purely amateur sport into a fully professional and highly commercialised one in just over 30 years. This evolution has meant the game’s disciplinary processes have had to keep pace, with World Rugby leading the way.

In January 2016, as a check on the legal robustness of World Rugby’s approach to disciplinary matters, one of the authors of this article produced a critical evaluation of the disciplinary cases that were decided at the previous edition of the tournament, held in England in 2015 (see here and here[2]). This evaluation included making a number of recommendations for the 2019 tournament. It was therefore a logical step to perform the same analysis at the conclusion of Rugby World Cup 2019 (RWC 2019). This was made even more important given the introduction by World Rugby of the ‘Decision-Making Framework for High Tackles’ only a few months before the start of the tournament, which was to be applied by match officials, citing commissioners, judicial officers and legal counsel alike.

Given the volume and complexity of the decisions that came out of RWC 2019, the analysis has been split into two parts, as follows:

Part 1 (below) examines:

  1. Overview of the disciplinary process for RWC 2019;

  2. A substantive interpretation of the Laws and Regulations 

a. Application of the decision-making framework for high tackles

i.  Is the incident a high tackle or a shoulder charge?

ii. If so, was there contact with the head or neck of the ball-carrier?

iii. What was the degree of danger – high or low?

iv. Are there clear and obvious mitigating factors?

b. Intention vs recklessness

i. Is intention ever relevant to determining Foul Play?

ii.Proof of intentional offending

iii.The standard of recklessness

Part 2, available here, focuses on the sanctioning of proven acts of Foul Play and procedural issues, as well as the authors providing their overall conclusions.

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Written by

Kevin Carpenter

Kevin Carpenter

Kevin is a advisor and member of the editorial board for LawInSport, having previously acted as editor.

Kevin specialises in integrity, regulatory, governance and disciplinary matters. His expertise and knowledge has led him to be engaged by major private and public bodies, including the IOC, FIFA, the Council of Europe, INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as making regular appearances internationally delivering presentations and commenting in the media on sports law issues.

His research and papers are published across a variety of forums, including having a blog on LawInSport.

Ben Cisneros

Ben Cisneros

Ben Cisneros is an Associate at Morgan Sports Law. He works across a variety of sports and practice areas, but has particular expertise in legal matters relating to rugby union. His focus on rugby regularly sees him act for players, coaches, clubs, agents, player associations and national unions in an array of regulatory, disciplinary, commercial and employment disputes, whilst he also acts as an advocate before sports tribunals, including the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Ben is the author of a blog called 'Rugby and the Law' (, and hosts an annual conference called 'The Rugby Roundtable'. He has also had work published in both the International Sports Law Journal and the Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, and is a fluent Spanish speaker.
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