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World Rugby appeals against decision to overturn Owen Farrell’s red card against Wales

17 Aug 2023 4 minute read
England’s Owen Farrell being called over by referee Nika Amashukeli to be shown a yellow card, which was later upgraded to a red card. .Photo Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

Owen Farrell’s participation in the World Cup is in renewed doubt after World Rugby appealed against the decision to overturn his red card from Saturday’s clash with Wales.

An independent disciplinary panel caused an outcry on Tuesday when it cleared the England captain to play despite his shoulder-led tackle to the head of Taine Basham that was expected to result in a significant ban.

But, having examined the written judgement of the hearing, World Rugby believes there is grounds for an appeal, the details of which have yet to be confirmed.


Farrell is once again in danger of missing the pivotal World Cup opener against Argentina on September 9, with the potential for a six-week ban – the mid-range sanction for dangerous tackle offences – back on the horizon.

“World Rugby fully supports the important role that an independent disciplinary process plays in upholding the integrity and values of the sport, particularly regarding foul play involving head contact,” a World Rugby statement read.

“Player welfare is the sport’s number one priority and the head contact process is central to that mission at the elite level of the sport.

“Having considered the full written decision, World Rugby considers an appeal to be warranted.

“In line with provisions set out under Regulation 17, an independent appeal committee will be appointed to determine the matter at the earliest possible opportunity.”

World Rugby’s statement announcing its appeal was accompanied by the publication of the written judgement for the original verdict detailing how Farrell evaded a ban.

Farrell received a yellow card in the 63rd minute of the Twickenham showdown but this was upgraded to red by the bunker review system, which is being trialled in the Summer Nations Series.


At the hearing, the Saracens fly-half accepted that he had made contact with Basham’s head, that it was a dangerous tackle and that the degree of danger involved warranted a red card.

However, he argued there was mitigation that made the offence worthy of a sin-binning only when Jamie’s George’s attempted tackle on Basham caused the Wales flanker into a sudden change in movement and drop in head height.

“This was a difficult question to resolve in the circumstances of this case and the evidence was finely balanced as to the correct outcome,” the written judgement states.

Ultimately, the disciplinary panel agreed with Farrell that the late change in dynamics due to George’s contact with Basham meant the England playmaker was denied “both the time and space to adjust to avoid head contact” and as a result the card should not have been upgraded to red.

“In our opinion, it would be placing an unreasonable burden on the player to expect him to anticipate, foresee or predict, in the limited time available to him, this late change in dynamics,” the judgement continued.

“This, in our opinion, is a sufficient mitigating feature in the player’s offending to bring the level of danger down to a point below the red card test. The player’s act of foul play was not intentional or always illegal to deny him the benefit of this mitigation.”

It is only the third time that World Rugby has appealed against a decision and it can only do so on specific grounds – that the original decision was in error, that it should be overturned in the interests of justice, or that sanction imposed was either excessive or too lenient.

The PA news agency understands that World Rugby will see to prove that on the balance of probabilities the tackle was never legal and therefore no mitigation should have applied.

Six Nations will now appoint a new panel to hear Farrell’s case.

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Dai Rob
Dai Rob
7 months ago


7 months ago
Reply to  Dai Rob

Always has been

7 months ago

Rugby union is still amateur. You cannot have those in charge of a team, over throwing bans or any punishment of one of their players. IRB needs to clamp down on this stupidity.

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