CHRIS FOY: World Rugby’s appeal IS likely to lead to punishment for Owen Farrell due to the backlash against the original judgment
- Owen Farrell’s red card against Wales was controversially dismissed by a panel
- The decision drew anger from the rugby community who felt he was let off
- World Rugby has launched an appeal which could see the England star banned
Owen Farrell’s appeal hearing is due to take place early next week, Six Nations authorities have announced – with an exact date still to be confirmed, along with details about the make-up of the judicial panel.
As widely forecast, World Rugby have exercised their right to appeal against the original verdict, which cleared Farrell to play without any further sanction, after ruling that he should not have received a red card for his high tackle on Wales back-rower Taine Basham last Saturday.
Such has been the ferocity of the backlash against the original judgment, there was a sense of inevitability about the global governing body opting to intervene.
Their intention is to convey the message that they are as determined to promote safety and player welfare as they claim to be, despite suggestions to the contrary by those who have been angered by a perceived let-off.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has lashed out at what he regards as an ‘absolutely disgusting’ circus around his son this week, but the thrust of the protests have been directed at the powers-that-be, rather than at the tackler himself.
World Rugby have launched an appeal into the decision to rescind Owen Farrell’s red card
There is a strong likelihood that the appeal will lead to punishment for Farrell
Such has been the shock and outrage caused by the non-ban, there is a strong likelihood that the appeal will lead to a punishment for Farrell jnr, on the basis that the mitigating factors cited by the original, all-Australian panel were met with widespread incredulity.
Basham did not dip into contact and a slight change of direction was accepted as an explanation, but that is unlikely to be a successful defence again.
However, there must be a sensible application of any eventual suspension, on the grounds that the process has been an almighty mess, which is not Farrell’s fault.
England head coach Steve Borthwick named a match-day 23 minus his captain for the warm-up encounter with Ireland here and claimed that Farrell would have played, had it not been for the disciplinary disruption.
That is an entirely plausible claim. Having missed the first game against Wales in Cardiff, there is every chance that Borthwick would have wanted to keep honing his strongest team against leading opposition, which would have meant fielding Farrell at either 10 again, or inside centre, alongside George Ford.
So if a guilty verdict is returned next week, the lapsed contest against the Irish must be considered as week one of any ban. There would be more understandable outrage – this time largely English – if the non-selection of the Saracens playmaker to face his father’s side led to a deferred sanction.
It would be an indictment of a shambolic saga if he were to be denied involvement in a momentous occasion such as a World Cup quarter-final, because Saturday’s game was not counted.
Let’s not have more developments which can be lamented as injustices. One is more than enough. So if Farrell is duly banned, week one will have already happened, or the system will be in a state of renewed disrepute.
It would be indictment of a shambolic saga if he were to be denied involvement in a World Cup quarter-final because Saturday’s game against Ireland was not counted towards any ban
As for where this saga leaves Borthwick and England, it has been an unwelcome intrusion on their World Cup preparations, but they have pedigree fall-back plans. Ford at 10 is an experienced and high-class attack leader who can ignite the back line, at last, while Courtney Lawes is a respected and popular choice as the stand-in captain, who could carry on in the armband until the end of the pool stage in France.
Aside from this primary issue, the visitors have a strong team to take on the world’s No 1-ranked nation at the Aviva Stadium. Freddie Steward keeps going at full-back – the surest of shoo-ins – as does Joe Marchant at outside centre and Will Stuart, who wears No 3 again while Kyle Sinckler is forced to bide his time and ponder his potentially threatened pre-eminence at tighthead.
Manu Tuilagi can add midfield clout and David Ribbans will aim to bring formidable physicality up front, while the return from injury of Ollie Chessum, among the replacements, is a welcome boost for the whole set-up. The Leicester lock is a vital asset – already. But Tom Curry remains out of action, which is starting to become a concern, although it has created a possible vacancy at openside which Ben Earl will seek to lay claim to with a repeat of last weekend’s thunderous exploits.
England have power and experience, but they are distant underdogs against a fine Ireland side. If Borthwick’s men can block out the Farrell ‘circus’ and run the hosts close, with some improved fluency in their performance – along with a hefty dose of backs-to-the-wall spirit – it will represent a heartening end to a troubling week.
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