Owen Farrell has been given a shock reprieve and is free to lead England at the Rugby World Cup after his red card was overturned – a move described as a ‘ridiculing’ of the sport’s commitment to on-field safety by Progressive Rugby, a leading player welfare and awareness advocacy group concussions.
Farrell was facing a six-game ban and was expected to miss the start of the England campaign in France, but is now free to play immediately following a three-and-a-half-hour disciplinary hearing in which the panel determined his tackle high on Wales Taine Basham this weekend had done it. does not reach the prohibition threshold.
The England captain admitted foul play but argued the incident did not warrant a red card and, crucially, the panel determined that Jamie George pushed Basham into contact with Farrell, providing enough mitigation for the half-butterfly . “The committee found that a late change in dynamics due to the interaction of the England No.2 in the contact area caused a sudden and significant change in direction by the ball carrier,” read a statement. disciplinary.
The verdict falls like another feather in the hat of England team lawyer Richard Smith KC, who is described on his Chambers website as a lawyer who “achieves incredible results in seemingly impossible situations”.
The result is that Steve Borthwick has received a welcome boost and no longer needs to plan for the start of England’s World Cup campaign without their captain. It is understood that World Rugby and Six Nations, as match organizers, can appeal the decision.
Shortly after the initial verdict was released, Progressive Rugby released a damning statement claiming the ruling also undermines the newly introduced bunker review system. Farrell was initially shown a yellow card while the decision was reviewed by a separate televised match official who decided a red card was warranted.
“[The] astonishing decision to reverse [red card] give to Owen Farrell for his tackle on Taine Basham derided World Rugby’s assertion that player welfare is the game’s number one priority,” said Progressive Rugby’s Professor John Fairclough. “Furthermore, despite protests from the judgment to the contrary, it has seriously undermined the newly introduced bunker process before a World Tournament and eroded confidence in the game’s legal process that is meant to help protect those who play the game.”
Farrell is now available for England’s third World Cup warm-up game, against Ireland on Saturday, but can expect scrutiny of his tackling technique in the coming weeks. He was sent off this year for a high tackle on Gloucester’s Jack Clement and has already served two bans for similar incidents.
England defense coach Kevin Sinfield, however, insisted Farrell was receiving unfair criticism, urging not to vilify the fly-half in the way David Beckham followed his red card for the football team. England at the 1998 World Cup. The aftermath was such that angry supporters hung an effigy of Beckham in his England kit.
“He’s captain of England, he understands it’s part of the territory,” Sinfield said of Farrell. “In any sport, if you’re captain of England, noise and heat are more important than anyone else.
“I will go back to the 1998 World Cup for a very long time when Beckham is sent off. If it had been any other player, it probably wouldn’t have been the same. I’m not saying Owen looks like Beckham at all. I don’t even think Beckham was England captain at that time. But there are some players who get a lot of heat. I don’t think Owen puts himself forward too much. He is a very good guy, who wants to improve and who wants to help the team. Some of them I don’t understand.
“He’s had one incident in the last 15 or 20 games he’s played. During this period, the number of tackles he has participated in training, with us or with the Saracens, his tackling technique has been very, very good.
“We had an incident. I understand some of the noise. Some of them I don’t understand either. You tried to hang him when it was a poorly timed tackle. We have to find a balance to that. If it’s Owen, I think the heat generated is much greater than if it was anyone else.