Ospreys coach Brad Davis wants player protection at breakdown

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Ospreys defence coach Brad Davis wants referees to give more protection to defenders who compete for the ball at the breakdown.

Wales prop Nicky Smith suffered a game-ending head injury after 18 minutes in Saturday’s win over Cheetahs.

Smith was attempting to ‘jackal’ the ball – steal possession from an attacker – at the tackle area when he was cleaned out by a Cheetahs player.

“It’s extremely dangerous, the guy’s in a vulnerable position,” Davis said.

“I thought it was a shoulder to the head… leading with the shoulder on a clean-out has to be eradicated out of the sport.

“Just from the naked eye – we all watch the game and care about the game – when you see someone getting cleaned out, you see how brutal it can be.”

Smith is undergoing return to play protocols after taking that blow to the head, increasing Ospreys’ selection problems in the front-row for the trip to Munster on Friday, 14 September.

Fellow loose-heads Paul James and Gareth Thomas are long-term absentees, while tight-heads Ma’afu Fia and Gheorge Gajion are also sidelined.

“We sin bin and guys get penalised for pulling people down in line-outs and when they’re in the aerial battle,” Davis added.

“Now we really have to focus on the breakdown because it’s where a stationary guy is at his most vulnerable over the ball.

“I think the jackalers need to be protected just as much as a fly-half needs to be protected from being hit late.

“You have to understand, especially off line breaks and quick taps, these cleaners – and they’re big boys – are coming at speed against a stationary jackaler.

“You can have some really serious knocks there.

“I was disappointed at the time that nothing was done [by the match officials] and that it wasn’t looked at a little more closely.”

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