The sight of England teammates scrapping and brawling in the Premiership is nothing new, yet Sunday’s incident between Wasps flanker James Haskell and Harlequins prop Joe Marler did not quite feel like a moment that would trigger change.
Yet that is what Wasps director of rugby Dai Young has called for, with the Welshman urging the relative authorities to take action against players who provoke a reaction out of others.
What was the provocation this time around? A punch, or a stamp, or even an eye-gouge, as rugby union has witnessed in the past? No, it was an off-the-ball scuffle followed by a cheeky spray of a water bottle that triggered a furious response from Haskell and ended with him throttling his international colleague in anger.
It was a reaction from Haskell that was completely over the top, and in spite of Young’s plea for the more mischievous players to be rooted out and adequately penalised, this was not the watershed moment. Instead, it was a moment of madness from Haskell that made him look rather silly, though his reaction – while over the top – was undoubtedly relatable for most that have seen it.
Everyone will have experienced a moment in their life when the red mist descended and an embarrassing overreaction was produced without thinking. Reacting to having a scrum cap removed and a bit of water squirted in the face hardly merits a choking, but by the look on Haskell’s face he had clearly lost it.
“I think if someone rips your hat off then squirts water in your face, what do you expect?” Young said after the match. “I just thought it was very harsh on James Haskell.
“There comes a time when you’ve got to look at the guys that spark these things up, not somebody that’s going to take exception to someone ripping their hat off and squirting water in their face.”
Marler would be one of the first to admit that he is quite good at filling the role of the provocateur. The 51-time capped England prop has never been one…