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What are the rules on yellow and red cards at the Rugby World Cup and how does the sin bin work?


England got their Rugby World Cup campaign off to a flying start by beating Argentina despite playing most of the game with 14 men.

Red and yellow cards are less frequent in the Webb Ellis Cup than its football counterpart in Qatar last year but passion can still spill over.

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Curry was sent off just minutes into the clash with ArgentinaCredit: Getty
After several minutes in the sin bin, the referee decided to give him a red card

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After several minutes in the sin bin, the referee decided to give him a red cardCredit: Getty

Tom Curry was sent off just three minutes into England’s opening match with Argentina following a clash with Juan Cruz Mallia.

The flanker was initially given a yellow card and put in the sin bin for the head-on-head collision before he received his marching orders by the bunker review system.

His dismissal had fans wondering what the suspension rules for the tournament are so talkSPORT.com takes a look…

What are the red card rules in rugby?

Sending-offs in rugby are most commonly shown for foul or dangerous play to penalise high or otherwise reckless tackles.

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Other illegal acts include biting, eye gouging and stamping.

Unlike football, red cards in rugby don’t carry an automatic suspension of missing a set number of games.

Instead, the guilty player must stand before a panel from World Rugby who will decide whether the dismissal was fair before then issuing a ban.

This is the reason England captain Owen Farrell is currently sidelined for the opening weeks of the tournament.

Farrell's yellow card was upgraded to a red after TMO review for his tackle on Taine Basham

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Farrell’s yellow card was upgraded to a red after TMO review for his tackle on Taine BashamCredit: Getty

What is worthy of a red card?

Red Card

  • A shoulder charge (a tackle without using arms) direct to the head or neck of the ball carrier.
  • A high tackle with any contact between the tackler’s shoulder or head and the ball carrier’s head or neck, with a high degree of danger.
  • A high tackle with first contact from the tackler’s arm, direct to the ball carrier’s head or neck, with a high degree of danger.

As with the case with football, two yellow cards in rugby will lead to a red.

But the key difference is that any player who is shown a yellow card will be sent to the sin bin rather than being allowed to keep playing.

The cautioned player must then leave the pitch for ten minutes in the sin bin and his team are unable to swap them out so are left a man down.

The bunker review system will use the time to determine whether the offence merits upgrading to a red card but if not then the player can return to action after the ten-minute limit.

Below are the type of offences that could warrant a caution…

Yellow Card

  • A shoulder charge to the body.
  • A tackle not to the head or neck but still carries a high degree of danger
  • A high tackle with any contact between the tackler’s shoulder or head and the ball carrier’s head or neck, with a low degree of danger.
  • A high tackle with first contact from the tackler’s arm, direct to the ball carrier’s head or neck with a low degree of danger.
  • A high tackle with first contact from the tackler’s arm, which starts elsewhere on the body and then slips or moves up to the ball carrier’s head or neck.





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