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Tony Sutton, RFL CEO, responds to Paul Wellens’ comments on John Asiata

The Challenge Cup semi-final between St Helens and Leigh Leopards over a week ago led to a major debate in the game around tackling technique following Leigh captain John Asiata’s challenges that resulted in two season ending injuries.

Findings from the Match Review Panel cited Asiata four separate times however no charge was put towards him, something that led to a Paul Wellens press conference on Tuesday that lit the rugby league world up.

Wellens took to his presser explaining how both Agnatius Paasi and Alex Walmsley had suffered season ending injuries at the hands of Asiata’s “out of control” tackling style, with Wellens claiming the RFL had failed to protect his players and future players by setting a precedent.

He told BBC Merseyside: “This weekend, the governing body has failed in it’s duty to protect it’s players. On the weekend, we had four players injured by one player tackling in a reckless and dangerous manner.”

There was a mid week response from the RFL which outlined that they would discuss tackling techniques at the end of the season, with a possibility of considering changes for the 2024 campaign.

The RFL’s current CEO, Tony Sutton, took to BBC Radio Manchester on Sunday and was asked directly about Paul Wellens’ comments regarding Asiata.

Sutton responded: “Yeah, it was quite a big week last week, wasn’t it with the outcomes from the semi-finals in many ways, and I must just say up front, sympathy for those players incurring injuries in those games.

“No one wants to see that in our game and it’s never nice to see. I also think no players go out to cause those injuries.

“We spoke to the club on the issues raised. We’ve been in contact with them a lot this week. We have reviewed and had a look at some of the questions that they raised and made sure that what we have done and our processes are as good as they can be.

“We have also undertaken to consult, consider and decide whether or not that tackle technique should have a place in the game and whether it is right.

“We should do that process taking as many things as we can into consideration, have a laws committee that considers exactly this type of thing and that laws committee is pretty well populated with people who’ve played the game or coached the game for a long time and they will consider this in the coming weeks.

“If changes are deemed to be required or deemed to be proposed they will come to the RFL board for decision but we’ve spoken to the club and had a lot of contact with them this week and tried to answer their specific questions.”

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