Champions Cup: Clubs get extra referee guidance ahead of European games

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Craig Maxwell-Keys
Craig Maxwell-Keys sent off two Bath players against London Irish on Sunday

Exeter boss Rob Baxter says European rugby officials have sent extra guidance to clubs about how referees will officiate Champions Cup games.

Guidance on contact with the head and neck has sparked a rise in Premiership red cards, with 13 in five weeks.

There were 11 in total last season and five red cards in the 2018-19 campaign.

"We are having to try and create changes in players' behaviour and I think everyone's aware of that," Baxter told BBC Sport.

European champions Exeter have had one red card this season - captain Jack Yeandle received a three-week ban for hitting Sale hooker Curtis Langdon's head with his shoulder before he was able to wrap the Sharks man at a ruck - while there were four dismissals in the last two rounds of Premiership fixtures.

In the Six Nations, Scotland's Finn Russell and Zander Fagerson and Ireland's Bundee Aki were all sent off for contact with the head and neck area.

"We got sent out some extra clips yesterday from the European refereeing department just to make people aware of how they expect things to be refereed," added Baxter, ahead of his side's Champions Cup last-16 tie with Lyon.

"There are some habits that just have to be changed by regular training and regular input and regular talking."

But Baxter says referees may look at how they interpret the laws on contact with the head and neck area with regards to any mitigation there might be for the contact.

"I do think there'll be a little bit of debate going forward about red cards that don't look like red cards to a degree," he said.

"I think there'll be a bit of chat about that around the refereeing department, about is the red card process at the moment too black and white?

"It's like anything, when new laws get put in and new rules get adapted there is a period where a lot of decisions get made and then you can review them and then some more decisions get made and you can review them.

"I think that'll be an ongoing process around the red and yellow card sanctions at the moment and we'll just see how things develop over the next couple of months."

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