Following a successful appeal by World Rugby against the decision to overturn his red card, England’s captain Owen Farrell will be absent for the team’s initial two World Cup pool games. The four-game ban imposed on Farrell means he will not be available for the group stage matches against Argentina and Japan, including two warm-up fixtures.
Initially, an independent judicial committee had rescinded Farrell’s red card. However, this decision was overruled by the appeal committee on Tuesday. The committee stated that the tackle in question was consistently illegal.
During England’s 19-17 victory over Wales on August 12, Farrell became the first English player to receive a red card through rugby’s new ‘bunker’ review system due to a high tackle on Taine Basham.
The appeal committee found fault with the original hearing’s failure to consider Farrell’s attempt to wrap his opponent during the tackle. Consequently, they concluded that the tackle had no mitigating circumstances, and the initial decision to overturn the red card was a mistake, leading to Farrell’s ban.
This suspension includes England’s recent 29-10 defeat by Ireland in Dublin, a match that Farrell “voluntarily stood down” from playing in after World Rugby announced its intention to appeal. Additionally, the ban encompasses England’s final warm-up match against Fiji at Twickenham, as well as the first two pool matches. Farrell will be eligible to return to play on September 23, just in time for the match against Chile. England’s World Cup opener against Argentina is scheduled for September 9 in Marseille.
World Rugby expressed that “player welfare is the number one priority” when appealing the ban overturning. In an effort to enhance player safety, the RFU had previously approved a reduction in tackle height for the community game in England. Additionally, stricter regulations around high tackles in the professional game were implemented to address the issue.
England’s number eight, Billy Vunipola, is also expected to face the disciplinary panel due to a red card received during the defeat by Ireland, involving a high tackle resulting in direct head contact on Ireland’s prop, Andrew Porter. Should Vunipola’s suspension exceed one game, England will also lose their only specialist number eight for the competition’s beginning.