Rugby officials calling for consistency from the code's judicial system have stopped short of calling for police intervention over on-field acts of violence.
Waikato Police District communications manager Andrew McAlley confirmed any complaints about violence on the rugby field would be dealt with in the same manner as any off-field assault.
''Our position is that there is no difference between assault on a sports field as opposed to assault in a bar or on the street,'' he said. ''Police deal with assaults on a routine basis and it is dealt with based on the nature of the complaint.''
The question was put to police following an on-field incident between Wallaby forward Scott Higginbotham and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw during last weekend's test match that ended in an 18-18 draw in Brisbane.
Higginbotham was suspended for four weeks for kneeing and head butting McCaw, a decision which has also seen him omitted from the Wallabies' upcoming tour of Europe.
But many, like Sport Waikato chief executive Matthew Cooper, believe the suspension did not fit the crime.
''I think in recent times the sentencing on rough play is becoming too lenient,'' Cooper told the Times.
But Cooper would not want to see police involvement in the code. ''I don't believe that should happen in the field of sport,'' he said.
''It appears to me if there is an outstanding player on the other team you can rough people up but you have to do it legally, play hard, play fair.
''You can be very physical and intimidate people by being physical and aggressive, but [Higginbotham] crossed the line and I believe he needed to pay a price - but for me the price wasn't high enough.''
''If a local enforcement officer was going down the road and saw this occur on the footpath - action would be taken which is far more serious.''
He was concerned too for the precedent such behaviour set for young rugby players coming through the grades.
Hamilton Boys High School deputy principal Nigel Hotham said school age players in particular were influenced by top level players.
''But it's that fine line between thuggery and the fact you are putting people on the field to play a physical and combative game - and I think if we get consistency of refereeing and adjudicating we shouldn't have issues.''
A view shared by Hamilton Old Boys Rugby Club president Stephen Shale who said it was up to the referees and judicial system to ensure matches are played in the right spirit.
''Head butting is head butting and it's just wrong - but I'm more concerned about my daughter who is a swimmer seeing a person like Lance Armstrong come crashing down and who is now disgraced - what does that do to sport and how do you determine any criminal factors in that?'' he said.
Fraser Tech club president Les Harrison said technology had made it difficult for players to ''get away with things'' on the rugby field.
''We probably got away with a lot more in my playing days but everything is a lot more obvious now,'' he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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