Owen Farrell ban live reaction as England captain hit with four-game suspension

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Owen Farrell will miss the start of the Rugby World Cup after being handed a four-match ban for his red card tackle against Wales.

The England fly-half has been at the centre of a saga which began when he was shown a yellow card for a shoulder hit on Taine Basham during the warm-up match at Twickenham.




That yellow was later upgraded to a red via the off-field TMO review bunker, then downgraded to a yellow again at a disciplinary hearing a week ago.

But World Rugby appealed that decision, meaning the England captain found himself attending another hearing on Tuesday.

And this time around the disciplinary panel ruled that Farrell will be banned for four games, with this suspension backdated to include the Ireland game on August 19.

That means he will miss England’s final warm-up game against Fiji this weekend as well as their World Cup pool stage matches against Argentina and Japan.

However, he will be free to face Chile and Samoa at the tournament in France.

The ruling comes as Farrell’s England teammate Billy Vunipola prepares to also go before disciplinary chiefs after his red card against Ireland. Follow live updates on Vunipola here.

A full statement read: “Following an initial Disciplinary Committee hearing for England number 10 Owen Farrell, who received a red card during the Summer Nations Series match between England and Wales on Saturday 12th August, World Rugby lodged a formal appeal against the Committees’ decision to downgrade the red card to a yellow, appealing for the red card to be upheld.

“The Appeal Committee met on Tuesday 22nd August and unanimously determined that in the original hearing the Disciplinary Committee should have considered the attempt of the player to wrap his opponent in the tackle. This point did not feature in the original decision.

“The failure to attempt to wrap was judged to be an important element of the Foul Play Review Officer’s (FPRO) report and had led to an upgrading of the referee’s yellow card to a red card during the match.

“As this element did not feature in the original decision, the Appeal Committee decided it was in the interests of justice to hear the case afresh on that key point alone, which included hearing from the player.

“Following the review by the Appeal Committee of this key element, it was determined that the FPRO was correct in his decision leading to the red card. The Appeal Committee subsequently determined that the tackle was ‘always illegal’.


“When applying the terms of World Rugby’s Head Contact Process, no mitigation can be applied to a tackle that is ‘always illegal’.

“The Appeal Committee therefore considered that the Disciplinary Committee’s decision to downgrade the red card to a yellow card had been manifestly wrong, which led to the Disciplinary Committee’s decision being overturned, the appeal brought by World Rugby being allowed, and the red card upheld.


“In considering sanction, the Committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point for foul play resulting in contact with the head (six-matches). Taking all considerations into account, including the player’s acceptance of foul play, clear demonstration of remorse and his good character, the Committee agreed a four-match suspension.

“The Appeal Committee accepted submissions on behalf of the player that the Ireland v England match on 19 August 2023, for which the player was voluntarily stood down would be included as part of the sanction. Therefore, the suspension applies to the following matches:

  • Ireland v England 19 August 2023
  • England v Fiji 26 August 2023
  • England v Argentina 9 September 2023
  • England v Japan 17 September 2023

Live updates below:


Decision in full

A Six Nations statement reads: “Following an initial Disciplinary Committee hearing for England number 10 Owen Farrell, who received a red card during the Summer Nations Series match between England and Wales on Saturday 12th August, World Rugby lodged a formal appeal against the Committees’ decision to downgrade the red card to a yellow, appealing for the red card to be upheld.

“The Appeal Committee met on Tuesday 22nd August and unanimously determined that in the original hearing the Disciplinary Committee should have considered the attempt of the player to wrap his opponent in the tackle. This point did not feature in the original decision.

“The failure to attempt to wrap was judged to be an important element of the Foul Play Review Officer’s (FPRO) report and had led to an upgrading of the referee’s yellow card to a red card during the match.

“As this element did not feature in the original decision, the Appeal Committee decided it was in the interests of justice to hear the case afresh on that key point alone, which included hearing from the player.

“Following the review by the Appeal Committee of this key element, it was determined that the FPRO was correct in his decision leading to the red card. The Appeal Committee subsequently determined that the tackle was ‘always illegal’.

“When applying the terms of World Rugby’s Head Contact Process, no mitigation can be applied to a tackle that is ‘always illegal’.

“The Appeal Committee therefore considered that the Disciplinary Committee’s decision to downgrade the red card to a yellow card had been manifestly wrong, which led to the Disciplinary Committee’s decision being overturned, the appeal brought by World Rugby being allowed, and the red card upheld.

“In considering sanction, the Committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point for foul play resulting in contact with the head (six-matches). Taking all considerations into account, including the player’s acceptance of foul play, clear demonstration of remorse and his good character, the Committee agreed a four-match suspension.

“The Appeal Committee accepted submissions on behalf of the player that the Ireland v England match on 19 August 2023, for which the player was voluntarily stood down would be included as part of the sanction. Therefore, the suspension applies to the following matches:

  • Ireland v England 19 August 2023
  • England v Fiji 26 August 2023
  • England v Argentina 9 September 2023
  • England v Japan 17 September 2023

The matches he’ll miss

Farrell has been banned for four matches, but the suspension has been backdated to include the Ireland game on August 19.

This means he will miss England’s final warm up game against Fiji, and their first two Rugby World Cup pool games against Argentina and Japan.

However, he will be free to face Chile and Samoa in France.

Farrell banned for four matches

A decision has been reached.

Owen Farrell’s red card has been upheld and he has been banned for four matches.

He’ll miss England’s first two Rugby World Cup pool stage matches against Argentina and Japan.

Still nothing yet…

The panel are certainly taking their time on this one.

Farrell’s hearing started over 12 hours ago!

News soon… hopefully

This is dragging on a bit now isn’t it?

Hopefully we’ll get a decision soon.

Hang in there!

The wait goes on

It looks like we’ll be getting a decision a bit later today, but Farrell’s teammate Billy Vunipola looks set to wait until tomorrow before he discovers his World Cup fate.

This just in from Chris Jones….

When will we hear a decision?

Well, we don’t know exactly.

But Farrell’s hearing was due to take place during the day today – with Billy Vunipola’s happening a bit later – so hopefully a decision will be on its way before too long.

All Black slams ‘broken’ judicial system

Former All Black Mils Muliaina has called rugby’s disciplinary process broken after Tonga’s George Moala was banned for 10 weeks for a tip tackle, while Owen Farrell intially escaped a ban.

“This isn’t the fault of Owen Farrell, the judicial system is absolutely broken,” Muliaina said on The Breakdown.

“What a fantastic lawyer, he obviously got him off, but when we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of it, there’s been a yellow card and then the officials have upgraded it to a red. When that happens surely there’s going to be some weeks missed.

“Then you’ve got another incident there with Moala which is 10 weeks straight away – I’ve seen a lot worse than that.

“When is the appeal for this (incident)? Does he get to appeal this? I think they should. Why aren’t Tonga appealing it? Have they not got the resources like England has financially? Those are the questions lingering around.”

Owens and Jiffy call for end to ‘hatred’

While he believes it’s a red card, Nigel Owens has also called to end the social media “hatred” aimed at Owen Farrell in light of his ongoing red card saga.

Owens said on social media: “With respect a lot of you need to stop letting your emotions take over. Do not look at the individual who by the way is one of the best on and off the field. Just deal with the facts of the tackle, not who made it. That’s what we all do as officials now please stop being personal.”

Welsh rugby legend Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies replied saying: “I totally agree. I can’t believe the hatred on here. Social media at its worst. Owen is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet and a great rugby player.”

Nige: Rugby is in big trouble if it’s not a red card

Former international referee Nigel Owens believes Owen Farrell was deserving of a red card and thinks rugby is in trouble if tackles like that don’t result in players being sent off.

Speaking in his WalesOnline column, he said: “Do we have foul play? Yes, we do. Do we have contact with the head? Yes, we do. Do we have a high degree of danger? Yes, we certainly do. Do we have mitigation? In my view, no we don’t. I don’t think there was any late change from Basham which Farrell could not adjust to, he was the only player contributing to the action of the tackle. And when a player’s action is always illegal, then mitigation plays no part in the process.

“Now, let me explain this bit for you. So, if Farrell was in the process of going to make a legal tackle and then suddenly there is a change of direction or a significant drop in height from the ball carrier (either voluntarily or due to another player) which caused Farrell’s tackle to become illegal, then the referee would apply mitigation. In that situation, there would be no way he could have changed what he was doing.

“The key thing about mitigation here is that Farrell’s actions were always illegal. No matter what happened, he was always leading with the shoulder and not making an attempt to wrap for a legal tackle – so mitigation does not and should not play a part in the decision.

“So, there is no mitigation for me, and there is certainly not enough to mitigate down from a red card, as it is foul play, there is a high degree of danger and there is an act of illegal ness which is leading with the shoulder.

“That meets everything that the referee would be looking for to award a red card, and the general rugby public would all be expecting to see a red given for that.”

England expecting more disruption

England coach Steve Borthwick says he is preparing for “another week of disruption” after a second member of his side received a red card and potential ban for a dangerous tackle.

No.8 Billy Vunipola was sent off against Ireland after his shoulder made contact with the head of Andrew Porter in a brutal challenge that made the crowd in Dublin gasp when replays were shown on the big screen.

It came just a week after captain Owen Farrell was also shown a red card in near-identical circumstances, with his shoulder on Taine Basham also being upgraded by the off-field TMO bunker. That decision was overturned at a disciplinary hearing, but Farrell is set to face the music once again with another hearing planned this week after a World Rugby appeal.

After his side ended up on the wrong side of a 29-16 scoreline with a hapless display against an efficient Ireland team, a “disappointed” Borthwick faces a difficult week with his World Cup plans potentially aready in disarray.

“There’s going to be another week of disruption,” he said in a post-match interview. “We knew that was coming already. It’s been amplified by the situation with Billy.

“[We have to] control what we can control. With 15 men on the pitch there was that tightness in that game, but when we went to 14 men we certainly struggled. What we’re going to do is make sure that we get the possession, we take our chances and we score points, and that’s clearly what we need to work exceptionally hard on to get improvement this week.”

England star defends Farrell and Vunipola

Courtney Lawes has come out in defence of England team-mates Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola after their red card offences, saying “mistakes happen”.

Lawes led his side against Ireland in Farrell’s absence but watched on as Vunipola was red carded.

And after falling to defeat against the world number ones, the skipper was quizzed about his side’s discipline and while he initially avoided directly addressing the incidents, he defended his teammates and claimed that such mistakes are “part and parcel” of modern rugby.

“People aren’t doing this on purpose,” he said. “It’s not a question of we need to tackle lower because split-second decision things happen. People want to get on the front foot and unfortunately, mistakes like that happen and it’s going to continue to be part and parcel of the game, unfortunately.

“But the only thing you can do really is do your best to get on with it, don’t let it get your head down. I think regardless of what happened, it’s always positive messages and we’re always on to the next job.

Brown expecting lengthy ban

Former England full-back Mike Brown is expecting a six-week ban for Farrell later today.

In his column for MailOnline, Brown said World Rugby were right to appeal and that, with Farrell’s history, he was expecting a lengthy ban.

He wrote: “If he gets off, what precedent is that setting going into the World Cup? Everyone else will think they can get off and the good work around head injuries will be a waste of time.

“It was always an illegal tackle and it was always going to be a high tackle. At no point was there any intention to dip or wrap his arms. Anyone who thinks otherwise — including this Australian panel — is out of touch with the current laws of the game. The panels in place are clearly not good enough.”

‘Bunker’ system to feature at World Cup

Despite all the furore around Farrell, World Rugby confirmed yesterday that the ‘bunker’ system that initially handed Farrell his red card against England will be used at the World Cup.

The bunker review system allows the acts of yellow-carded players to be assessed while play continues, before a decision is made on whether to upgrade to a red card.

That was exactly what happened with Farrell, who was sin-binned for a high tackle on Taine Basham that was then upgraded.

When the red card was overturned last week, it did raise questions over whether the new process had been undermined while it was still in its infancy, with player welfare lobby group Progressive Rugby leading those calls.

Part of World Rugby’s statement said: “World Rugby has confirmed that Rugby World Cup 2023 in France will feature the Foul Play Review Official (Bunker) and shot clock, aimed at supporting match officials in their decision-making, promoting ball-in-flow and enhancing fan experience.” Read their full statement here.

Owen Farrell hearing today

This matter will hopefully be put to bed once and for all today.

After a yellow card that turned to a red, which was then downgraded back to a yellow, Owen Farrell’s case goes before an appeal committee today after World Rugby exercised its right to appeal against the decision to overturn the England captain’s red card.

Farrell will today attend a hearing via video conference before an independent judicial committee made up of chair Nigel Hampton KC (New Zealand), Shao-ing Wang (Singapore) and Donal Courtney (Ireland).

Stick with us for live updates on the fresh disciplinary hearing…



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