Why has Owen Farrell’s red card and decision to withdraw from the Rugby World Cup 2023 divided opinion?
The England captain’s dismissal against Wales has been overturned by an independent judicial commission (IJC), allowing him to play a pivotal role for England in the 2017 World Cup.
After a high tackle on Taine Basham during England’s 19-17 win over Wales last week, Farrell became the first England player to get a red card under rugby’s new ‘bunker’ review system.
The three-game penalty imposed by the red card would have meant Farrell would have missed England’s remaining warm-up games against Ireland and Fiji, as well as their World Cup opener against Argentina on September 9.
Professor John Fairclough of the player welfare organization Progressive Rugby said the decision to reverse the red card made a “mockery” of health problems in the game, but France defense coach Shaun Edwards wrote in his Mail column that “justice had been served” for Farrell.
‘I understand why the decision was taken.’
At the hearing on Tuesday, Farrell admitted to foul play but denied it was serious enough to warrant a red card.
According to the IJC, Farrell had mitigation due to a “sudden and significant change in direction from the ball carrier” induced by Jamie George pushing Basham right before the hit.
Former Ireland international Shane Horgan, who is also a lawyer, believes the RFU and its counsel Richard Smith KC will have reviewed World Rugby’s mitigating criteria before presenting their case.
“Having watched it [Farrell’s tackle] many times and having looked at the laws that were implemented, I can see why the decision was made,” Horgan explained on the Rugby Union Weekly podcast.
“I looked at how close the two players were when the direction change occurred – it was less than a metre and they were both moving forward.”
“Imagine Smith talking about how the reaction time was a fraction of a second and how Farrell couldn’t move out of the way.”
“Then you consider the height of the hit.” It was almost touching the ball and would have slid up.
“Do I believe it is in the best interests of the game as a whole?” No.
“However, I don’t believe that factored into the decision.” I disagree that these laws are suited for purpose. They are extremely complicated and subjective.”
Horgan also believes that the all-Australian panel may have influenced the conclusion.
“I think the southern hemisphere is still slightly behind in this area [of player welfare],” he continued. I hear that in their commentary, as well as from their coaches and previous players, so I believe it played a role in how this was presented, received, and accepted.”