Dave Craven: Coach Wane’s hard line over soft tackle smacks of hypocrisy

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It will be good to finally get down to the action tonight.

It is fair to say, some of the stuff which has gone on in the build-up to Leeds Rhinos’ Super League semi-final against Wigan Warriors has been a little tawdry.

As Wigan’s head coach, Shaun Wane could argue his decision to publicly call for Leeds’s Danny McGuire to be banned for a high tackle is simply him being ruthlessly professional in his attempt to get the best for his side.

After all, McGuire is probably Leeds’s most potent strike weapon and, without him around, the Cherry and Whites’ passage to Old Trafford will, theoretically, be made a simpler task.

But saying the scrum-half’s challenge on Catalan’s Louis Anderson – which earned him a one-game suspension – was worse than that which saw Wigan’s Michael McIlorum banned for three was ludicrous.

McIlorum’s was late, off the ball, wild and high. Admittedly, his punishment was severe, especially as it happened in the first period of their game against St Helens so it was effectively a three-and-a-half game ban. He will miss the Grand Final if they get there.

But Wigan should have aimed their moan in the direction of the disciplinary process, not instead tried to influence the banning of an opposition player as some form of recompense.

Wane clearly put pressure on the judiciary this week and it was inevitable McGuire would miss tonight’s game.

In his first season in charge, the Wigan boss has won plenty of plaudits for his refreshingly honest approach, no-nonsense attitude and desire to see his side play attractive football.

They have been the most consistent side and rightly won the League Leaders’ Shield.

But for this uncompromising former prop who – rightfully in my opinion – has aired concerns previously about the game going too soft, to then try to get McGuire sidelined for what was little more than an open-handed slap smacks of hypocrisy.

Ordinarily, gruff Wane would be the last person who would wish to see people punished for such timid offences, but he has now placed himself in a difficult position.

Ultimately, he will say he got the desired effect as Leeds lost one of their pivotal stars and it improved his side’s chances of reaching the Grand Final.

But you would like to think Wane would have enough confidence in his squad in their own right not to worry about whether or not an opponent is banned.

Leeds coach Brian McDermott was rightly infuriated that his opposite number was able to so loudly express his views before Tuesday’s disciplinary.

The Headingley chief has a point when he says such comments – and those of Wigan star Sam Tomkins, who also Tweeted that McGuire should be banned – would not legally be allowed before a normal court action.

There are clear issues with the system, too, when the match review panel has almost acted as judge and jury beforehand.

But McDermott, too, went a little overboard with his prediction that players will soon start coming to coaches saying they cannot afford to tackle hard in fear of getting a ban.

Let us look at that. During the course of a Super League season, there are in excess of 100,000 tackles made. In this campaign, so far, there have been 10 referrals for high tackles (five of which came this month) and the same for reckless shoulder charges.

So, statistically, once every 5,000 tackles, a player will be charged.

Or in other words, Super League’s top hitman Danny Washbrook, who made more than three times as many tackles as McGuire this term, should go five years before getting it wrong.

Now let us get on with the football in what should still be a classic, and may the best side win.