Six Nations 2015: Common sense is up in the air, says Cusiter
Scotland scrum-half believes referees need to make allowances for players making honest aerial challenges
Chris Cusiter believes rugby union’s law-makers must clarify the contentious situation over aerial challenges.
After watching Scotland outside-half Finn Russell receive a yellow card, citing and ban for a perceived dangerous challenge in the air on Dan Biggar in their 26-23 defeat to Wales, the Sale Sharks scrum-half has called for common sense to prevail.
I have a lot of empathy for the refs because they are under pressure to make a call, but you need common sense and it has to come from the top.
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter is awaiting the outcome of an appeal to Russell’s two-week suspension that rules out of their clash with Italy on Saturday, with a decision expected on Wednesday.
But Cusiter, who played with Russell at Glasgow Warriors before his move to the Aviva Premiership last summer, believes his former team-mate was caught in a difficult position and did nothing wrong.
“It was a tough one for Finn because there was obviously no malice,” Cusiter said.
“He was trying to protect himself in a difficult situation.
“It’s a hot topic this year. It seems anyone who goes to contest in the air and the other guy ends up hurt, it is a yellow or red card.
“It’s a complicated issue. It could have been worse for Finn, he could have been given a red, but it was costly because Wales scored when he was off.
“For me, it’s a really tough decision to say he did the wrong thing there.
“The referees are in a difficult position because they take directives on what the party line is. There are some issues which are real grey areas and that is one of them.
“I have a lot of empathy for the refs because they are under pressure to make a call, but you need common sense and it has to come from the top.
“Finn was not trying to endanger the player. He was caught in a difficult position, so you would hope common sense would prevail.”
As well as the potential loss of Russell, Cotter is having to negotiate a number of injuries in the pack with lock Richie Gray and props Jon Welsh and Gordon Reid all ruled out after the Wales defeat at BT Murrayfield.
I know I haven’t got a huge amount of time left in my career, but I thought I would make the squad and then push to make my case for a start. To not even make the squad was hard to take because playing for Scotland has been a huge part of my life.
Cusiter is one of five internationals recalled to the Scotland squad this week for their RBS 6 Nations clash against Italy in Edinburgh on Saturday after missing the opening two rounds.
It a game being billed as a must-win clash against Italy, their perennial rivals for the wooden spoon, despite many believing that the new era of Scottish rugby could see the Dark Blues propel themselves into the championship’s top three.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw has been Cotter’s first-choice scrum-half with Sam Hidalgo Clyne, Edinburgh Rugby’s rising star, injecting pace off the bench, but the 21-year-old is undergoing return-to-play concussion protocols and could be ruled out of the game on Saturday.
With Glasgow Warriors scrum-half Henry Pyrgos also injured, it means a reprieve for the 70-times capped Sharks man, who admits he was gutted to be left out of Cotter’s initial squad for the championship after coming off the bench in their viagogo Autumn Tests against Argentina and Tonga in November.
“After I was told I wasn’t involved in the first game, I sat in the kitchen for about 45 minutes by myself and had a think about it,” he said.
“I was just gutted. I know I haven’t got a huge amount of time left in my career, but I thought I would make the squad and then push to make my case for a start.
“So to not even make the squad was hard to take because playing for Scotland has been a huge part of my life.
“I just had to accept it. I haven’t been sending Vern any texts trying to talk him round.
“The reality is that in international rugby there is always going to be competition.”
Cotter names his Scotland team to face Italy on Thursday.