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Appeal casts fresh doubt over Owen Farrells World Cup involvement

Appeal casts fresh doubt over Owen Farrell’s World Cup involvement

World Rugby have appealed the decision to overturn the red card issued to Farrell on Saturday

Owen Farrell’s participation in the World Cup is in doubt again after World Rugby appealed against the decision to overturn his red card from Saturday’s clash with Wales.

An independent disciplinary panel caused an outcry on Tuesday when it cleared Farrell to play despite his shoulder-led tackle to the head of Taine Basham that was expected to result in a significant ban.

But having examined the written judgement of the hearing, World Rugby believes there are grounds for an appeal, the date for which has yet to be confirmed.

The furore surrounding England’s captain – instigated by a verdict that 2003 World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward insists has “made the game a complete and utter laughing stock” – has had repercussions for Saturday’s clash with Ireland.

Steve Borthwick had intended to pick Farrell for the Dublin showdown but revealed when announcing his team that he had been forced to revise his plans, instead starting George Ford at fly-half with Marcus Smith present on the bench.

“In my original planning for the Summer Nations Series and as part of our World Cup preparation, Owen Farrell was due to be selected to play in Saturday’s Test,” Borthwick said.

“However, in light of the fact that so much of Owen’s training and match preparation time this week has been significantly affected and interrupted by the disciplinary process, I have not selected him in the matchday 23. Owen will travel to Ireland with our full support.

“Owen understands the situation but is of course disappointed, as I am, that he is missing such a special game that he would otherwise have played in.”

Farrell’s absence means that Courtney Lawes leads a starting XV that is close to full strength, bolstered by the return of Ellis Genge at prop and Anthony Watson on the right wing in his first appearance of the summer.

Farrell is once again in danger of missing the pivotal World Cup opener against Argentina on September 9 with the potential for a six-week ban – the mid-range sanction for dangerous tackle offences – back on the horizon.

“World Rugby fully supports the important role that an independent disciplinary process plays in upholding the integrity and values of the sport, particularly regarding foul play involving head contact,” a World Rugby statement read.

“Player welfare is the sport’s number one priority and the head contact process is central to that mission at the elite level of the sport.

“Having considered the full written decision, World Rugby considers an appeal to be warranted.”

It is only the third time that World Rugby has appealed against a decision and it can only do so on specific grounds – that the original decision was in error, that it should be overturned in the interests of justice, or that the sanction imposed was either excessive or too lenient.

Farrell received a yellow card in the 63rd minute of the Twickenham showdown but this was upgraded to red by the bunker review system, which is being trialled in the Summer Nations Series.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the Saracens fly-half accepted that he had made contact with Basham’s head, that it was a dangerous tackle and that the degree of danger involved warranted a red card.

However, he argued there was mitigation that made the offence worthy of a sin-binning only when Jamie’s George’s attempted tackle on Basham caused the Wales flanker into a sudden change in movement and drop in head height.

The disciplinary panel agreed with Farrell that the late change in dynamics due to George’s contact with Basham meant the England playmaker was denied “both the time and space to adjust to avoid head contact” and as a result the card should not have been upgraded to red.

The PA news agency understands that World Rugby will look to prove that on the balance of probabilities the tackle was never legal and therefore no mitigation should have applied.

Six Nations, who govern the warm-up fixtures, will now appoint a new panel to hear Farrell’s case.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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