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Victory beckons for common sense

Thanks to the good folks at New Zealand Rugby, the Tuesday Morning Quarterback is the luckiest guy on the planet.

Good things happen to good people.

This column holds that truth to be self-evident.

But, just in case it’s not, here’s the proof.

After 44 years of being a relentlessly good bugger, karma finally repaid the debt to the Tuesday Morning Quarterback at 3.06pm on a Monday afternoon.

It came, at an hour of great need, in the form of the greatest press release ever sent, skim-read and deposited swiftly into the trash.

New Zealand Rugby, the Greatest Press Release Ever Written stated, was going to trial common sense.

It really did.

“With the Mitre 10 Cup underway, referees have been directed by New Zealand Rugby to consider context when ruling on foul play.”

That’s the opening line of the GPREW.

You had us at “directed to consider context”, you saucy devils.

Because context, of course, is something that has been conspicuously absent in the rulings of referees in international rugby matches of late. Games being totally ruined by players being sent off for accidently bumping into each other, for instance, the GPREW conceded, had given rugby fans the shits.

“Clearly in the June test window, some decision-making has irked some fans and teams who feel that more rugby context should be considered in this decision-making,” was how the GPREW put it.

Dash those irksome fans. Just when everything was going swimmingly, they ruin it for everybody.

For those struggling to comprehend quite how a sport willingly placed itself in a position where the context of its players’ actions would expressly not be considered by officials, there is more mind-bending wackiness to come.

Take it from here, New Zealand Rugby Head of Referees, Bryce Lawrence: “We are taking advantage of our own national provincial competitions to introduce an interpretation that maintains player safety as a priority, but allows the intent of the ‘action’ and the ‘context of the game’ to determine the sanctions for any foul play,” Lawrence states in the GPREW.

On the one hand, this decision to stick it up World Rugby and go our own way is mighty admirable. On the other, rugby, being rugby, can’t simply go: “Crickey, what a pig's dinner, let’s fix that”.

Not when there’s the option of sucking it and seeing in the NPC – rugby’s version of a statistically valid, double-blinded random placebo trial – on the table.

So how’s it going to work? Break it down for us some more, Brycee.

“We want referees to bring some more rugby feel to how they rule foul play.”

All-righty, then.

Rugby feel might sound like a suspiciously intangible concept, but it's most likely the exercising of sound judgment based on a combination of experience and the entirely bleeding obvious – aka common sense.

“By asking referees to understand the game context, the players action and the intent, not solely on ‘process’ we hope we can achieve better results for players, coaches and fans in 2018,” said Lawrence, clarifying little while raising the question of whether English was his first language.

Leaving aside the practical difficulties associated with looking inside the heart of a player to determine their true intent, a victory for common sense beckons.

Presumably, if successful in New Zealand domestic rugby, this new-fangled approach could also be wheeled out in matches people actually still watch.

Now that would be something.

The field is yours, common sense. Good things are coming your way. Check your inbox. It’s your turn next.

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