Rennie: Ikitau's tackle a 'difficult one' but foul play pointers lie in initial head movement

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has weighed into Len Ikitau's three-game suspension that has scratched the centre from the Brumbies' semifinal with the Blues, while also imploring officials to look for the initial motion of the tackled player's head in ruling on such incidents.

Ikitau had his red-card for a high tackle on the Hurricanes Aidan Morgan upheld by a SANZAAR judiciary on Tuesday night, despite the Brumbies mounting a case based on mitigating circumstances they were optimistic might see it retracted.

The decision means the Wallabies are likely to have to use the controversial club rugby avenue to see Ikitau serve the second match of his ban -- the third will be wiped with his completion of World Rugby's head contact coaching intervention course -- for him to be available to face England in Perth.

Asked about that incident on Stan Sport's RugbyHeaven program, and the proliferation of cards throughout Super Rugby Pacific, Rennie explained how the initial movement of the tackled player's head should be the first pointer over whether foul play was present.

"They're not always easy to referee and make a decision on the spot, but there's one key thing [to look for]," Rennie explained.

"I was part of a group of coaches, referees and players, there was a group of about 17 of us from around the world, we looked at around 200 clips of various head-to-head contact, shoulder contact, whether that's clean-out or tackle. One thing that was really clear from that was that if there is contact on the body first the head will come forward first before it goes back, and if it's straight on the head automatically goes back.

"So if you see that one with [Antony] Jelonch and Marika [in the third Test between Australia and France last year], Marika got red-carded unfortunately -- Ben O'Keeffe is an outstanding referee and probably one of the best in the world -- but the ideal scenario would be that TMO has been skilled up enough to know to know that there has been a little bit of head movement forward. I talked about it immediately after the game and we got Marika off the red card within 30 minutes on the Monday.

"So he had 75 minutes off the field and we played with 14, [a red card] has a massive bearing on the result, and it would be sad to see a World Cup final when somebody gets a red card when maybe it wasn't justified."

In regards to Ikitau's tackle, Rennie believed some of the vision showed Morgan's head first came forward, but admitted there were other issues with Ikitau's technique that had likely seen his ban upheld.

"Lenny's is a bit more difficult, I reckon if you look at an angle and there is initial contact and his head goes slightly forward before it goes back, but they're also looking for the tackler to have bent knees," Rennie said.

"And he had one bent and one straight and Nic White sort of hit and sort of spun across Lenny and Lenny kind of spat out the side a little bit. So I can understand why they suspended him but there's mitigation in a number of those things. And we're trying to tidy that part of the game up, that's important."

While the 20-minute red-card replacement law continues to garner overwhelming support in both Australia and New Zealand, it appears as good as dead in the water for a global trial following next year's World Cup.

It will not be used in the Wallabies' upcoming series with England, but SANZAAR has applied to again have it in play for the Rugby Championship.

However, the belief that it is not enough of a deterrent nor harsh enough punishment for the offending player has seen in kyboshed in World Rugby's boardroom - and Rennie for one remains frustrated.

"I think what we want is 15 vs. 15 as much as we can," Rennie said. "And for the people who think [it's not harsh enough] -- it's not malicious, maybe it's a little bit reckless -- but if you look at Marika's situation the referee got it wrong and he spent 75 minutes off the field.

"Now we managed to win that, but you don't win many of those [games] in those situations. So I'd hate to see a World Cup final decided because of a decision that was inaccurate.

"We had a group of us in World Rugby who voted to trial a global 20-minute red card, which went to a rugby committee and they overruled it, and some of them might think that there are not enough consequences. But clearly if a player is off the field for the rest of the game, he [then] gets a minimum of a six [week entry point for suspension] some are 10, some are longer, so there are genuine consequences.

"And [the game] is changing and there is emphasis around trying to drop the body height and tackle under the ball. But we've seen in other situations -- I think it was [Highlanders forward] Josh Dickson -- who was sitting over a ball and as Paddy Ryan tries to go underneath and clean him he drops his head intentionally and it's a yellow card [for Ryan]. I think we need a wee bit of common sense in that."