Major League Rugby has opted for a surprising, and questionable, three-week suspension of Felix Kalapu. The lock/flanker played his first match for Old Glory against Rugby ATL, laying a big hit in the opening seconds. However, he went a bit high and was penalized. At the time, the referee and the TMO decided that no card was necessary. Watching it live, it seemed like the correct call, although a yellow card would not have been unreasonable either.

Now, the citing commission has decided that not only should a card have been issued, it should have been a red card. As such, they have handed a down a three-week suspension, meaning that Kalapu will be out until OGDC's home match against the Utah Warriors on April 15. Kalapu already missed last week because of this ban, although it hadn't been announced at the time.

In general, I'm not one to complain about decisions like these. They are out of my control, so they aren't worth getting upset about. However, I'm not going to mince my words here: this is a ridiculous citing that the MLR should be embarrassed about. The level of the punishment and the way it was decided, are out of proportion with the offense committed and do nothing to further player safety.

First of all, the play was reviewed at the time. It was recognized as a potential foul play, and the TMO duly took a look at it. However, the refereeing team decided that it wasn't even worthy of a yellow card. Given that the play had already received scrutiny and been reviewed, I don't see way it should have been cited at all. The on-field team made a reasonable decision that was not dramatically in error, and as such, in my opinion, this should have been left as is.

Second of all, for that on-field decision to be overturned and taken all the way to a red card and a three-week suspension is flatly insane. This is a bigger problem in rugby generally, with the punishment for very similar acts varying wildly depending on tiny details and technicalities. The difference between a perfectly legal play and a weeks-long ban is sometimes a matter of a fraction of an inch. That sort of hard cutoff does nothing to encourage player safety, because it encourages players to play as close to that cutoff line as possible, when those plays are generally still dangerous. World Rugby needs to put more effort into making these things a sliding scale, to avoid situations where the same play can lead to either a penalty or a three-week ban depending on tiny changes in the interpretation.

This sort of decision-making is frustrating and not a good look for the League.