World Rugby urged to intervene after Owen Farrell’s red card against Wales was overturned
World Rugby has come under pressure to act after Owen Farrell’s red card against Wales was overturned in a decision that has caused uproar across the game.
Farrell was sent off in the second half of Saturday’s 19-17 victory at Twickenham after his yellow card for a shoulder-led tackle to the head of Taine Basham was upgraded to a red by the bunker review system.
While the England captain was expected to face a ban that would rule him out of the start of the World Cup, a disciplinary hearing instead concluded that the offence was worthy of a sin-binning only, clearing him to play.
Six Nations, who oversee the warm-up fixtures, have a policy of not publishing written judgements, but are facing calls to make the detailed reasoning behind the independent panel’s decision public.
They have the power to appeal the verdict and so do World Rugby, who will examine the report before making a decision.
Progressive Rugby, a player welfare lobby group, believe the sport’s global governing body must intervene.
“World Rugby must emerge from its corporate bubble of stakeholder management and delegated responsibility to bare its teeth,” Progressive Rugby said on Twitter.
“For it to demonstrate it WON’T stand still on player welfare, that it IS the game’s number one priority and that they won’t tolerate being undermined.”
The all-Australian panel came to its verdict after finding that Basham’s direction of travel was altered by an attempted tackle by Jamie George just before Farrell made his challenge.
One of the questions arising from the case which would be clarified in the written judgement is why this was used as mitigation when World Rugby’s guidelines state mitigation does not apply for “always-illegal acts of foul play”.
France assistant coach Shaun Edwards, former England wing Chris Ashton and Australia’s ex-England boss Eddie Jones are the few voices offering support for Farrell, who has missed a total of 10 matches after being banned for dangerous tackling in three separate incidents.
Meanwhile Sir Clive Woodward, England’s 2003 World Cup-winning head coach, said the failure to suspend the Saracens fly-half has “made the game a complete and utter laughing stock”.
Farrell is available for England’s third Summer Nations Series match against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday but, given the furore surrounding their skipper, he is unlikely to be included in the starting XV when it is named on Thursday.
Former England women flanker Maggie Alphonsi fears that rescinding the red card will create a series of problems, including for the bunker review system which is currently being trialled and has yet to be confirmed for the World Cup.
“Baffled by this discussion. It undermines the Review Process and does not do rugby any favours in trying to stamp out dangerous tackles & protecting players,” Alphonsi posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“This outcome is only going to blur the lines between red & yellow card decisions and lose trust in the judiciary process.”
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