Owen Farrell Escapes Ban; Red Card Overturned

A disciplinary tribunal overturned the fly-half’s red card for a reckless tackle on Wales back-rower Taine Basham due to the acts of Owen Farrell’s teammate in England.

For a shoulder-led challenge to Basham’s head last Saturday at Twickenham, the English captain went before a disciplinary tribunal on Tuesday.

Farrell was initially given a yellow card, which the off-field TMO bunker review system later escalated to a red one.

Since the average punishment for a dangerous tackle is six matches, many had anticipated that Farrell, who was being represented by the RFU’s top QC Richard Smith, would receive a sentence that would extend into England’s World Cup pool stages, if not the entire group-stage games.

Farrell is now free to play after the disciplinary panel rescinded the red card.

The Saracens player admitted to engaging in unfair behavior but argued that it wasn’t serious enough to warrant a red card.

On Tuesday, the available evidence was taken into consideration by the independent judicial committee, which included chair Adam Casselden SC, former Australia internationals John Langford and David Croft, as well as statements from Farrell and his attorney.

The primary proof

On balance of probabilities, the foul play review officer erred when they upgraded the player’s yellow card to a red one.

The mitigation should be applied to the high level of danger identified by the foul play review officer when using World Rugby’s head contact protocol.

The committee discovered that Basham’s course of action underwent a “sudden and significant change” as a result of a late shift in dynamics brought on by England #2’s [Jamie George] engagement in the contact area.

The committee felt that this attenuation was enough to lower the player’s act of misconduct below the red car standard.

Farrell is instantly eligible to play again because the committee did not uphold the red card for that reason.

They examined the following video evidence.

The committee further stated that the foul play review officer received no criticism, adding that “unlike the foul play review officer, the committee had the luxury of time to study and examine, in private, the incident and the proper application of the head contact process.

The committee thinks that this contrasts with the foul play review officer, who was forced to make a decision in a matter of minutes without having access to all the relevant information or speaking with the player and his attorney.

When Farrell made a hazardous tackle in January of this year, he was given a three-match suspension instead of a four-week suspension because he had successfully completed World Rugby’s tackle school program.

For the same offense, he was again suspended for two games in 2016 and five in 2020.

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