So why are we seeing this increase ? I believe it is a very complex picture. Certainly the increasing physicality of the game is taking its toil, but I would argue a bigger influence is the refereeing of the game which is becoming of great concern. To date with the Premiership season I would estimate a strong arguements could be made that every week 2 or 3 players could easily have been red carded for foul, dangerous or reckless play and that's only from the games I have seen. Are the referees becoming weak ? I think this is too simplistic an answer.
I would highlight a very subtle, not orchestrated, undermining of the authority of the referee which has led to referees turning to the yellow card as opposed to red. Main culprits for me are the whinging and moaning Directors of Rugby and TV pundits/commentators. Referees decisions are being constantly challenged despite one of the fundamental principles of such a physical game as rugby is the referee is the sole judge of fact. Without acceptance of this simple statement the game would fall apart. It cannot be challenged if we and future generations of players/people want to gain the benefits of this special and great game.
There seems to be an attitude amongst DOR's and TV pundits that challenging the referee publically is fair game. It is not. The game at the top is Professional and hence under pressure to entertain. A sending off can end the contest and be contrary to the business principles required by the clubs. However the Professional Clubs do not own the game. To a degree a can understand DOR's reactions to decisions as livlelihoods are constantly under threat, however that does excuse this behaviour. There can be no excuse for TV pundits. Basically often their comments are simply totally irresponsible.
Equally there seems to be a misguided attitude that sending off a player for illegal and dangerous play is in some way making the game soft - "In my day the we took it and got on with it and had a beer afterwards" " handbags" "don't be a big girl" etc etc. Well the game is going soft but not in that way. The increasing tendency NOT to send off players, tolerating dangerous and reckless play, this is soft. Whining, moaning and continually challenging the referees authority is weak, pathetic, soft and most importantly damaging the game at grass roots level and now also at England International level.
It is time to take a stance against those attacking the fundamental core values of the game and stop defending foul, dangerous play. The time has come to encourage and support the referees to take tough action. If England suffer in the coming months leading into the World Cup due to an excessive injury toll a great deal of the responsibility will sit squarely with DOR's and TV pundits due to their unrelenting assault on the referees over several years. Referees have and will always make mistakes. Do what generations have always done before, accept it as a peculiar and centrally important part of the game - live with it.
Rugbys core values provide an effective preparation for the challenges life present. Learning to deal with events and outcomes as they happen and developing coping strategies makes a person stronger, better. Rugby is just a game, but it is a special game which provides an exceptional basis to ALL that play to lead their lives in a positive and productive manner. I repeat the Professional Clubs do not own the game, it is game owned by all.