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Saracens' Richard Wigglesworth fears new rules will cause uproar in a crucial match

PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 January 2017

Saracens' Richard Wigglesworth. Picture: PA

Saracens' Richard Wigglesworth. Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Saracens' Richard Wigglesworth fears it is only a matter of time before an accidental sending-off defines a crucial game following the tougher sanctions introduced by World Rugby surrounding high tackles.

The Sarries scrum-half put in a man-of-the-match performance against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday but the focus centred on the early dismissal of Richard Barring-ton after he and Brad Barritt tackled Geoff Parling, who was left unconscious.

World Rugby introduced new rules regarding high tackles on January 3, declaring that any contact with the head in “reckless tackles” will be penalised with at least a yellow card.

However, while Barritt has been cited and banned for three weeks for his role in the incident, Barrington’s red card has been rescinded.

Second-placed Saracens impressively fought back from 10-3 down at half-time to secure a 13-13 draw with 14 men against Exeter – but Wigglesworth feels a similar moment of accidental misfortune will prove extremely costly to an unlucky team and player at some point.

“There’s just going to be so many accidental red cards,” he told Ham&High Sport. “It’s just such a shame for the players and when it’s really going to matter in the quarter-finals, semis and finals a game gets decided by an accident, and I don’t think that’s right.

“That’s when there’ll be real uproar as you’ve worked all season, and potentially a complete accident could cost you.”

Barrington’s dismissal has already undermined Saracens’ title defence, with leaders Wasps extending their lead to three points at the top of the Premiership.

But the Hendon-based club will be very happy to have secured a draw against Exeter, given the circumstances.

“Before the game there’s no way we’d have taken a draw at home,” said Wigglesworth. “But it was a great draw for us because we were playing for so long against a top team – one of the form teams in the Premiership.”

Wigglesworth went on: “We were unbelievably calm [when the red card was shown]. We came together as a senior group of players and we came up with a plan as we didn’t know whether it was Brad [Barritt] or Baz [Barrington] that was going to go off, so we were coming up with quick move plans and what we were going to do off the set piece.

“This team’s so experienced now that, although it wasn’t easy, we just felt that we weren’t out of control because we had a plan of what we were going to do.

“I thought our forwards up front like Titi [Lamositele], who came on, and our two tight-heads were outstanding and the subs made a real difference. We just managed to get the field position to get that try from the line-out and made them pay.

“We’re just so happy with the character. Had Loz [Alex Lozowski] missed that conversion at the end the feeling could have been so different because of what we’d done out there. We pride ourselves on our effort and effort alone, and we had that in spades.”

Saracens now return to Champions Cup action as they prepare to take on Scarlets and Toulon over the next two weekends.

They could be without Barrington for both matches due to suspension, while captain Barritt is waiting to see whether he will be cited for his part in the double tackle, having avoided punishment at the time.

Meanwhile, Saracens have announced they are signing Liam Williams from Sunday’s opponents Scarlets.

The Wales international, who can play at full-back or on the wing, will move to Allianz Park for the beginning of the 2017/18 season.

“Liam is arguably one of the most talented backs in Europe so to have secured his signing is a real coup for the club,” said director of rugby Mark McCall.

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