World Rugby appeals decision to rescind Owen Farrell’s red-card

England captain was initially sent off for a dangerous tackle on Welsh back-rower Taine Basham

World Rugby has appealed the decision to rescind the red-card shown to Owen Farrell on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson -
World Rugby has appealed the decision to rescind the red-card shown to Owen Farrell on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson -

WORLD RUGBY has bowed to public pressure and has launched an appeal against the recent independent disciplinary decision to downgrade Owen Farrell’s red-carding for a dangerous tackle on Taine Basham of Wales during last Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match to a yellow-card.

A statement issued by the global governing body said –

World Rugby has today confirmed to the Rugby Football Union and Six Nations Rugby that it will exercise its right to appeal in regard to the Owen Farrell disciplinary decision following a careful review of the independent Judicial Committee’s full written decision received on 16 August.

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. 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.

In line with provisions set out under Regulation 17, an independent Appeal Committee will be appointed to determine the matter at the earliest possible opportunity.

It is understood that Farrell is free to continue playing matches until his new hearing takes place, opening up the prospect of the England captain being selected for Saturday’s match against Ireland in Dublin. His head coach, Steve Borthwick, is set to start George Ford at stand-off but was expected to name Farrell on the bench before this appeal became a distinct possibility last night. Borthwick has pushed his team announcement back from 12noon to 4pm today [Thursday].

On Tuesday, an independent disciplinary panel, made up of three Australians, ruled that Farrell’s tackle on Basham did not meet the red-card threshold, so he was therefore freed to play immediately. This prompted a furious backlash from fans and current players, and after receiving a full transcript of the judgement of the case on Wednesday night, World Rugby has taken the extraordinary step to intervene.

The date for the appeal is not confirmed and will be set by the Six Nations, which runs the summer series of World Cup warm-up Tests.

Farrell could now miss England’s final warm-up match against Fiji next Saturday, and their World Cup pool matches against Argentina, Japan and Samoa if he is finally found guilty of a dangerous tackle. Bans for hits of this kind, when a tackler makes contact with the head, start at six weeks.

RWC23: Owen Farrell’s red-card is rescinded

About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Surely the disciplinary panel should be made up of referees of international standing and the player being summoned should have the support of a referee rather than a international high powered lawyer who may intimidate a panel of non professionals. This disciplinary hearing should not be for the “high court” but best the accused is judged by his peers.

  2. Would it not be sensible for the 6 nations disciplinary panel to be made up of rugby referees of international standing…?

  3. My goodness, all the media focus including this forum is on Owen Farrell and the circus around the Aussie panel, and this flawed system?
    What about the Welsh lad who is still under concussion protocols, let’s have a thought for him, his family & children.
    Geez, we’re in a mess with this carry on 😣

    • Indeed…as well as the other Farrell victims. Awesome to see the usual folk defending the indefensible as per usual!! The OF apologist should have a chat with Dave Denton about the real consequences of head shots. Or the likes of Ryan Jones Steve Thompson etc…maybe they’re just attention seeking arseholes like OF dad says??

    • Taine Basham was fine apparently. According to Gatland his failed HIA was incorrect and he’s on the bench for Wales this weekend.

  4. Just because he plays for England the ban should stand he has brought the game into disrepute so many times. He can be a great player but let’s himself down with thuggery on the field if he misses the World Cup then so be it nobody is to blame but himself

  5. What a mess this is turning into. Farrell will have to get a lengthy ban since a) World Rugby have appealed (for the first time??) a disciplinary review panel decision so their credibility in doing so is on the line and b) with the law suit building, it has to be shown WRU is doing its “best” to eliminate dangerous tackles. Arguably, OF’s previous form should be a major factor for the same reason.
    But where the hell is the citing officer regards Steward’s “tackle” on Adams?? To me, way more dangerous (potential head injury, broken spine or limb as against potential head injury, broken jaw/cheekbone). It was a textbook example of what NOT to do when an opposing player is in the air, it was shocking and needs punishing every bit as much as hits to the head. Referring back to the lawsuit, the fact that Steward wasn’t even referred to the bunker would add strength to the case against WRU/RFU for not taking player welfare seriously. We can all agree, whatever view you have on OF’s actions, that the disciplinary system is a farce and is likely to mean lawyers with no direct experience of the game will be driving the future agenda on welfare matters.

  6. Owen Farrell may not be everyone’s favourite player but what he has had to endure over the last couple of days is totally unfair on him and the England squad.
    Everyone knows the tackle was dangerous, the sort of tackle that must be outlawed for the safety of players and the future of the game.
    The media spotlight should be on the Australian panel who came to this decision, their reasoning for the decision should be made public so we can understand their thought process in coming to their ruling. They have brought the game into disrepute and made a farce of the disciplinary process. I hope they are made to apologise to Owen Farrell and are never involved in our game again.

    • Agree to an extent Iain – and clearly the system is a total mess and isn’t helping players in Farrell’s position to have access to a clear, rapid and understandable system. However, the decision by Farrell and/or the RFU to go into the disciplinary hearing earlier this week and seek to try to get the red card overturned through their high powered legal representation (effectively on a technicality) is what has led to this further twist and continuing uncertainty (along with all the public opprobrium that has come with it). Most other unions would have looked at that tackle and said ‘fair play, it was a dangerous tackle that merited a red card, let’s try to minimize the penalty ban’. That’s what happened with Zander’s recent card and seems to be the usual route for these things (not least because if the panel disagree with your challenge then you end up with a considerably longer ban). But the arrogance of the RFU – and fact that they’ve managed to pull such rabbits of hats in the past for OF – has meant that this is still rumbling on.

      Got to say that Farrell’s woeful history of high and dangerous tackles also tempers sympathy level somewhat for me. But do agree that I’m sure that the rest of the England squad could well do without this continuing to hang over them and distract from, already shaky, preparations for the WC.

      Whatever happens, world rugby doesn’t come out of this well: Either the red card is reinstated and the disciplinary panel mechanism is totally undermined. Or the decision to withdraw the red card at the panel is upheld and the match-day officials and new bunker system itself are totally thrown under the bus.

      • I would suspect the RFU would go in with the intention of putting their case forward to try and get the ban reduced, fair enough, but what were the panel thinking? If he’d received a ban them most of us including Farrell and England would have been happy and we’d all move on. These clowns ( the only way I can describe them) could have listened politely to the legal presentation then made the correct decision. You can look at the video evidence over and over again and come to the same decision. Was it some sort of Aussie macho feeling that made them come to the decision they did?

    • Personally I feel more sorry for all the players Farrell has put in harms way over the last few years (and potentially in the future) with his dangerous tackling. Compared to that a little criticism in the media is nothing. If he wants to avoid all the nasty criticism perhaps he should stop hitting people in the head with his shoulder.

  7. Surely the issue here is that effectively the body “6 nations rugby” has been exposed as cheats. How can they be trusted to administrate the 6 nations in the future??

  8. What were the independent disciplinary panel thinking of ?
    Made up of 3 Australians, no harm to them but these panels usually contain members from a mix of countries and perhaps a mix of styles however,
    Anyone watching the tackle can see:-
    Farrel makes no attempt to wrap his arms around the player,
    He makes no attempt to lower his height ,
    His trajectory is upwards through the attempted tackle,
    In other words there is no mitigation and shoulder was aimed at and collided with the opponents head.
    He has shown no contrition and offered no apology.
    How he received anything less than a 6-12 week ban is bewildering.

  9. Following public backlash? Is that all it took?

    Not the grievous decision that bears little relation to the offence? The nonsensical disciplinary panel view rather negated by the ample video evidence that’s available? The complete undermining of the new bunker review process? And last but not least how player welfare and safety is at the forefront of the game?

    Just the public pressure 🙄

    • In that case it’s a good job the public got involved and it wasn’t left to Daddy and his international coaching mates and one or two former players who all seem to be totally oblivious to player welfare!

  10. is he free to play until the appeal? My understanding of the regs is that a player remains suspended until his case is resolved. It ain’t resolved yet

  11. 100% the right decision – however, rescinding the Red card, totally undermined the authority of the foul play review officer, now the judicial Committee is now being undermined by world rugby.
    Total farce – won’t belong before legal teams are named alongside the match day squads before each game

    • Very much a case of ‘quis custodiet ipsos custodes’, and also raises the question of just who is in charge of the process. I understand that the judicial panel is independent but WR must take ultimate responsibility.

      I am also of the opinion that the judicial panel should not be a court of law, as seems to be have been case in their judgement on OF: the decsion turning on a technicality. We have all seen the rules of rugby variously interpreted (often for the good of the game) by referees, so on that basis, it is bizarre that in this case the laws should be applied retrospectively, with the (suppossedly) main purpose of the panel being player welfare. That aspect seems to have been ignored, and so sets a dangerous precident. ath

  12. If the Farrell tackle is judged legal those already suing for the dementia etc will have convincing evidence that World Rugby is unable to discharge its duty of care to players. It’s not as though Farrell has already been given remedial training for earlier reckless challenges.

  13. Great article as per usual…however one little quibble.I don’t think World Rugby bowed to public pressure but rather they listened to the opinions of many knowledgeable observers and rightfully in my opinion acted in the right way.
    Just saying….

  14. Strongly suspect it’s less about the backlash and more their lawyers pushing this. They would be dead in the water for the class action if they didn’t act. The Disciplinary Process needs to be totally changed.

  15. Well done World Rugby for appealing this. If they are taking player welfare as their top priority, this can only be a good sign. Will they take into consideration Farrell’s previous record/evidence? What sort of % chances do people think that World Rugby’s appeal will be successful?

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