With permission from the International Rugby Board, referees are allowed to use a white card in this year's Super 15, and it is being used.
Some years ago France used a white card to be used in the case of infringements considered cynical/deliberate. This was to distinguish from yellow and red cards which were for foul play. This time the white card has been used for foul play. It enables the referee to refer a doubtful incident of foul play to the citing commissioner for possible further action. The referee may have doubts about the identity of somebody guilty of foul play or about the severity of the foul play. He may even use the white card if a player accuses an opponent of foul play.
It has already been used in all three possibilities.
In the match between the Stormers and the Hurricanes at Newlands, referee Marius Jonker used it when unsure of the identity of a player who 'tripped' Bryan Habana who was in pursuit of a kick. No further action ensued.
In the match between the Lions and the Cheetahs, referee Mark Lawrence sent Andries Strauss to the sin bin and also used the yellow card to ask the citing commissioner to investigate the severity of the 'tip tackle', Strauss was subsequently suspended for two weeks.
In the match between the Rebels and the Waratahs, Tom Carter of the Waratahs complained to referee Bryce Lawrence that he had been 'eye-gouged' by Adam Byrnes of the Rebels. Byrnes has been cited.
The use of the white card has its own protocol.
The White card Protocol
The intention of this new process, whereby the referee can refer an incident to the citing commissioner, is to provide for further clarity of acting so that the sport is seen to be identifying potential incidents of foul play in a fair and effective manner without delay.
This process also helps to continue to enhance the guiding principle of making the game easier to play, referee and understand, and enables fans to appreciate in real time that an incident in the game is going to be reviewed.
1. A referee will continue to act decisively in relation to acts of foul play, issuing whatever sanction is appropriate based on what the referee sees at the time (penalty, yellow card, red card).
2. Where a referee is unsure of the severity of the act of foul (and remains unsure after consultation with his assistant referees) he may then referee the incident to the citing commissioner (Rule 5.10). Where he has obviously seen the incident, he will make whatever decision he deems appropriate, based on what he has seen.
3. Where the referee has not seen the incident at all but has had an incident referred to him by a player, he may place the incident on review by also referring this to the citing commissioner. In this case the referee takes no further action on the field.
4. Post the match the referee completes a referral form to the citing commissioner, based on what the referee team has seen of the incident.
Where a referee determines to place an incident or a player "on report" (referral to the citing commissioner), the referee will do so when the ball is dead, and he will signal with a white card. If he is aware of the actual player, he will state: "Red number 5 is placed on report."
It is the citing commissioner's role exclusively to then determine whether the alleged act of foul play meets the red card threshold.
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