After a moment of utter madness, Italy’s Andrea Lovotti was given his marching orders against the Springboks on Friday.
A tip tackle on Duane Vermeulen resulted in a straight red for the Italian and made him the fourth player to see red at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
His coach was understandably furious.
Lovotti wasn’t alone in the mess, though. In fact, some might say that Italy should have had two players sent off. Aided by Nicola Quaglio, Vermeulen was picked up by his feet and speared head-first into the turf. Conor O’Shea didn’t hold back.
Of the incident, he said:
“At 17-3, we had to hang in and do something and we get to the start of the second half, we’re close to the line and then just crass stupidity, crass stupidity,” fumed O’Shea.
“I’m destroyed really for everybody because we worked so hard,” added the coach, whose team must now beat defending champions New Zealand to have any hope of reaching the quarter-finals.
“I thought the boys fought valiantly but when you’re down in numbers against a great side, it’s just impossible,” he said.
It also means that the 2019 Rugby World Cup is likely to break the record for the most red cards at a tournament, even if red cards are a rare occurrence.
With four red cards dished out so far, the tournament is already tied with 1995 and 1999 for that dishonour.
And 2019 is some way ahead of 2015 when just one red card was issued. The year 2003 stands out as the only unblemished tournament.
Most red cards at a Rugby World Cup
As for the teams behaving badly, Canada, Samoa and Tonga top that group with three cards apiece. The Canadians particularly excelled themselves back in 1995 with two red cards in one game. Anoraks might recall that game as the “Battle of Boet Erasmus” – the same game in which James Dalton was also sent off.
Speaking of the Springboks, they are level on two red cards across all tournaments with Uruguay and Wales. Argentina, Australia, Fiji, Italy, Namibia and the USA all have one.
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