Munster boss Johann van Graan believes players have to adapt better to the letter of the rugby laws after his side saw off 14-man Gloucester to top Heineken Champions Cup Pool 2.
Munster won 36-22 at Thomond Park today after the visitors lost fly-half Danny Cipriani to a harsh red card in the 28th minute when the scores were 5-3 to the Irish province.
Cipriani had been dismissed by French referee Alexandre Ruiz after a collision with Munster’s Rory Scannell, who was being tackled by another Gloucester player, his head meeting the upright Cipriani’s shoulder.
Gloucester coach Johan Ackermann refused to get involved in the debate over the decision although he did question the increasing frequency of red cards, but van Graan said players had to accept that the letter of the law left little in the way of a grey area for referees, with Munster losing Stephen Archer to a yellow card late on for a high tackle.
“Currently, the letter of the law states that if you make shoulder contact with the head you are in a bit of trouble,” van Graan said.
“We conceded a yellow card. The opposition conceded a red card, early in the game. There were quite a few in the game.
"It is certainly something you train. There was certainly no intent from Stephen Archer, from our side. And there is no intent from Danny as well, on their side. Unfortunately, a red card makes the game difficult and we have to adapt to the letter of the law.”
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony said players could not worry about referees’ interpretations.
“You know, we have to trust the officials on their adjudication and trust them 100 per cent. We have so much to worry about that it is not something we have to worry about.
“It's not like guys are starting to do it now. Guys... no-one wants to give away penalties any more because of the pressure you put on yourself. So there's no guys doing it with intent. There are guys with good footwork out there who will put you off balance. And nine times out of 10 it is a genuine accident.
“But, as Johann said, by the letter of the law, if you are upright and you are high, you are in trouble. And as Johann has said, I don't think there was any intent from any of the lads today. But if you're awkward and you're upright, it's always been part of the game that you're penalised. It's just that it is in the spotlight at the moment.”
Gloucester boss Ackermann said: “I’m not going to get involved in the debate around red cards. My view is simple, it’s spoiling the game if there’s no intent, I’m not going to say anymore. It’s not going to change the result.
“I’ve got a lot to say but I’m not going to say it, it’s not going to change anything.”
“Some back-rowers make 25 tackles in a game, one wrong and they say he’s got a bad technique. But what about the other 24 that he did great. We can debate this over and over, the biggest thing I say is do we constantly want to see 14 play 15?”
Cipriani, his boss said, was “disappointed”.
“He wasn’t even wanting to tackle the guy. He wanted to just get out of it. It’s done and dusted.
“If the supporters pay to come and watch 14 v 15, that’s great. That’s a great way for rugby (going) forward.”
“At the end of the day Munster were good. They deserved to win. They’re a quality side, well coached, they’ve got quality players and we probably should have done better in that first 10-15 minutes when we had a lot of possession.”
Van Graan was delighted to have secured a bonus point in a five-try to three victory and said: “I'm very glad about the five points. Five points in Europe, at home, we'll take any day of the week. As the group is set, if you told us two weeks ago that we would be sitting on top of the group with seven points we would take it.”
There are injury concerns, though in the Munster camp, van Graan seeing flanker Tommy O’Donnell leaving the field on a stretcher just before half-time, hooker Rhys Marshall limp off at the interval and centre Dan Goggin carried from the field at full-time.
"Serious,” van Graan said of the pair. “Tommy has gone to the hospital, no confirmation yet but I believe he broke his leg. Dan Goggin looks like a serious knee injury. Also lost Rhys Marshall which looked like a serious upper leg injury so we'll know more on Monday.
“Big loss, only eight weeks into the season and three starters that go down like this. With all the injuries that we have currently that are not in the squad, long season ahead but it's worrying from our side and it just shows the game at this stage.
“We talk about player welfare but the game is becoming more and more physical, guys are getting shots, three serious injuries from our side. I don't know about the opposition, it looked like their hooker was in quite a bit of pain when he came off just before halftime, I don't know about the rest. Huge for us, those three guys.”