Zander Fagerson to miss rest of Six Nations after four-match ban

Scotland's tight-head prop will be unavailable for France, Ireland and Italy matches after red-carding last weekend against Wales

Scotland prop Zander Fagerson was red-carded against Wales on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson -
Scotland prop Zander Fagerson was red-carded against Wales on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson -

SCOTLAND prop Zander Fagerson will play no further part in this season’s Six Nations after being handed a four-match ban following his sending off during Saturday’s narrow defeat to Wales at Murrayfield.

The suspension means he will miss the games against France away on 28th February, Ireland and Italy at home on 14th and 20th March respectively, and one other match to be determined.

The tight-head prop appeared before a Six Nations disciplinary panel this [Tuesday] evening to answer a charge related to his shoulder making contact with opposite number Wyn Jones’ head as he cleared out a ruck in the 54th minute of Saturday’s match.

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Fagerson accepted that he had committed an act of foul play but did not accept that it warranted a red card.

The panel, which comprised David Hurley (Ireland), Becky Essex (England) and Stefan Terblanche (South Africa), decided that the offence had warranted a red card with a mid-range entry point of six matches’ suspension, which was reduced by two matches to take account of mitigating factors including his admission of foul play, good disciplinary record and remorse.

Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony received a three-match reduction on his six-match ban after he faced an identical charge the previous week, which is bound to cause consternation amongst Scottish rugby fans, who will want to know why Fagerson’s punishment is more severe.

The answer to that is not clear at the moment, but may relate to the judgement in O’Mahony’s case noting that “the player did not seek to challenge the referee’s decision” by accepting that the offence had merited a red card. The panel also “accepted that there were no off-field aggravating factors” in O’Mahony’s case while there was no mention of this consideration in Fagerson’s judgement.

A statement from Six Nations said:

The Scotland No.3, Zander Fagerson, appeared before an independent Disciplinary Committee via a Zoom call today. Mr Fagerson had received a red card in the match in the Guinness Six Nations Championship between Scotland and Wales on 13 February 2021 at BT Murrayfield. The red card was issued for an infringement of Law 9.20(a) (a player must not charge into a ruck or maul; charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul) and 9.20 (b) (a player must not make contact with an opponent above the line of the shoulders), when, in the 64th minute of the match, he made contact with the Wales prop forward, Wyn Jones.

Mr. Fagerson accepted that he had committed an act of foul play, but did not accept that it warranted a red card.

The Disciplinary Committee, which comprised David Hurley (Ireland), Becky Essex (England) and Stefan Terblanche (South Africa), heard evidence and submissions from Mr Fagerson, the Scotland head coach, Gregor Townsend, and legal counsel, Bruce Caldow (as well as from Six Nations’ legal representative). The Disciplinary Committee found that Mr Fagerson had committed an act of foul play (an infringement of Law 9.20(a) and that it had warranted a red card.

The Disciplinary Committee found that the act of foul play warranted a mid-range entry point (six weeks’ suspension) and reduced that by two weeks to take account of mitigating factors (including his admission of foul play, good disciplinary record and remorse).  Mr Fagerson is therefore suspended for four weeks and, given his playing schedule, he will miss the three Scotland matches in the Guinness Six Nations Championship against France, Ireland and Italy, and one further match to be determined. He was reminded of his right of appeal.

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About David Barnes 3537 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he 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. The Zander Fagerson red card decision committee had three judicial members who included a South African – Stefan Terbanche. Just three months earlier he had been in the SANZAAR foul play committee who had decided on a Australia red card against Argentina in Sydney on 5 December.

    SANZAAR was open and clear in all its reporting on such judicial reporting. Not can be seen in such commented follow on Ireland and Scotland red cards from the “Six Nations” reporting!!

    Why are the “Six Nation” reporting followed up not only on SANZAAR red cart – but more closer and clearer as soon such as locals as such as PRO14 and the English Gallagher?

    Sorry for any stump in my wording. But my ill of more than two years now – and I know what I’m saying hear on this!!

  2. Anyone know if the decision is going to be appealed? Although it seems that there could be a risk that the DC keeps doubling down on their decisions rather than admit that mistakes were made.
    1. Harsh red card
    2. Same penalty as PO, in spite of a big difference in severity
    3. Further punish after ZF ( and many many others) suggest that it wasn’t a red card. This is the crazy system where you only get parole if you admit a crime you didn’t commit, but get time off by being cynical and saying the words “ fair cop guv, I’m sorry !!”

    DC is showing itself as a joke but dangerously dictatorial, accepting no criticism of their infallibility.

  3. The outcome of ZF’s disciplinary hearing shouldn’t come as any surprise to any Scottish rugby devotee. Peter O’Mahony’s act of thuggery in the Ireland v Wales match on top of the plethora of similar offences committed by him @ both club and international level over the years has earned him
    the reputation of being one of rugby’s (worst) bad boys. The sanction meted out to him is totally risible seen alongside Zander’s action/legitimate clear-cut on the Welsh loose-head in a fair contest and his exemplary behavioural record on and off the pitch. Like I said above, we shouldn’t be surprised, because, for years, successive 5 and 6 Nations campaigns by Scotland ( and a certain RWC quarter-final against Australia!) have been repeatedly scewered by a litany of appalling refereeing decisions, TMO gaffes and oversights and disciplinary hearing outcomes, of which this is the latest instance. In the eyes of the global rugby establishment, Scotland are not supposed to be able to mix it with the big boys, with only 2 Pro-14 clubs, and precious little school rugby, we’ve become used to being considered as being too deficient to be so bold as to play exciting, inventive and enterprising rugby. However, when we do, as we are doing so right now, and have done in the past, that same rugby establishment is institutionally incapable of accepting that Scotland can beat any team on the day and, call it a conspiracy theory if you will, find ways of adding altitude to that mountain Scotland have to climb to prove it. So let the rest of this year’s 6-Nations be Scotland’s Everest! Do it for Doddie and Zander! We are good enough!

  4. Spanish Inquisition tactics, i.e. “relinquish your beliefs, repeat back to us the words we want you to say, i.e. “Yes, sir, it WAS a red card offence”, and your punishment will be lessened.” The only difference being, based on World Rugby’s past attitude towards the SRU, pretty much EVERYONE expected this Spanish Inquisition!

  5. Liam Williams should have been looked at in 35th minute for elbow challenge to head of James Lang. It is just double standards. Why, oh why, are we always getting the rough end of officiating errors and oversights. Carley is really close but immediately turns his back to give Scotland a penalty. And what was the TMO doing to have missed this moment? Zander’s red should have equalised the numbers in my book and not even a citation. One rule for them, another for us.

  6. I wonder if the TMO is regretting bringing the incident to the referee’s attention. He obviously thought action was required but clearly did not expect a red card.

  7. a few things to address
    The panel are experienced in this role and are guided by precedent. Criticism of them is wide of the mark and unjustified.
    The system is as Grant described, designed to punish any challenge, and is rotten. Roddy Dunlop has confirmed that if you challenge then you lose discount, and he knows a thing or two about this.
    So the panel applied the system which is akin to witch trials. Admit guilt, and burned at the stake. Dont admit guilt, tie up and throw them in the pond and if they drown then innocent, if survive must be a witch, burn at the stake. Its a shit system. One bound to produce irrational outcomes like this.
    Its a medieval approach, like much of WR, 6N and RWC organisers, dont dare challenge their fiefdoms.

  8. a few things to address
    The panel are experienced in this role and are guided by precedent. Criticism of them is wide of the mark and unjustified.
    The system is as Grant described, designed to punish any challenge, and is rotten. Roddy Dunlop has confirmed that if you challenge then you lose discount, and he knows a thing or two about this.
    So the panel applied the system which is akin to witch trials. Admit guilt, and burned at the stake. Dont admit guilt, tie up and throw them in the pond and if they drown then innocent, if survive must be a witch, burn at the stake. Its a shit system. One bound to produce irrational outcomes like this.
    Its a medieval approach, like much of WR, 6N and RWC organisers, dont dare challenge their fiefdoms.

  9. Agree with many of the comments made, especially in regard to the comparison with POM’s action and previous record and also in regard to incentivising non defence in the hearing.
    But am I being a bit stupid – a 4 week ban, starting from Sat 13th Feb ends Sat 13th March, the day before the Ireland match, so Zander will only miss the France game.

  10. In response to David Blair and Ally – the reason to highlight Becky Essex is that you would expect to be heard by your Peers and those of experience of the level and physicality of the game. I suggest that appropriate criterion was not met and is in no way ‘Sexist’.
    The fact that David Hurley also fails to meet what most would consider ‘individuals of significant experience’ hardly makes the case for an adequate hearing any the more pertinent: in my humble opinion, of course.
    However I am grateful to David Blair for another significant reason to question the veracity of the decision reached by the ‘Hearing Panel’ that has been exposed and if one wanted to be even more pedantic, perhaps despite the unquestionable experience that Terblanche had as a Wing or Fullback, I am not absolutely certain the problem before him was one he had extensive experience of.
    Perhaps the panel should be selected on personnel that are a bit more au fait with the Sharp end of today’s International/Senior Professional Forward experience in affording a knowledgeable assessment of the level of intent rather than ‘who’s turn is it in the Barrel’ and ‘rubber stamping’ the official line and in reality increasing the penalty should anyone dare to question their questionable decision.

    • George – thanks for extending your comments to consider the whole panel. Some reasonable points made there.

      • Thank you for pointing out something that had never occurred regarding the suitability of the panel to make a judgement on experience. In this day and age of Phone Conferencing there is no excuse for not having the appropriate expertise adjudicating.

    • Thank you for elaborating on your point and I agree that it is not sexist to objectively argue that someone doesn’t have the skills required of the position, or even that the criteria for selecting panel members should be changed. But to use phrases like ‘tokenism’ is different, as it undermines her credibility based purely on the fact she is female. I appreciate you wanted to make a broader point about the skills and experience that you think should be required of panel members, but phrases like ‘tokenism’ are highly charged and pejorative.

      You make an interesting point about the experience that such panels should have: whilst I agree with the principle that panel members should have empathy for the player’s situation and a considered understanding of the context of the events they are evaluating, I disagree that panel members need to all have the same background as the player in question. Sometimes an external perspective is a way of ensuring greater objectivity, particularly when it comes to the application of rules, process and a framework in this type of scenario. I would guess that the issue here is the inconsistencies in how penalties are calculated; and I do think you are spot on in saying that is makes no sense to be penalised more severely for arguing your own case.

      • Well a healthy debate is no bad thing, and on some points we agree but I refute that my descriptive words were inflammatory: ‘Tokenism’ I have to admit that I am at a loss as how to describe her position on the panel with any other suitable word, unfortunately the definition and or meaning of the word is to ‘give the appearance of equality’ regardless of how much one advocates for equality I defy anyone to defend that the women’s game at International level replicates the Men’s game physically or in intensity other than much more than name. As for pejorative, the definition is to show contempt OR disapproval, and I disapprove of individuals of any gender that are making an assessment on an experience they themselves can’t realistically relate to. It isn’t the letter of the Law’s of Rugby that they are assessing it is the specific incident and understand how it can come about in the context of playing at that level needs experience, not guesswork.
        It isn’t a very satisfactory conclusion to suggest, but we have to agree to disagree on that specific part of the debate, but that is unfortunately where we appear to be.

  11. In addition to such bizarre decisions off the pitch, Rugby is in danger of becoming a game where you don’t always get the “right” result due to some of the officiating. Few would argue that France missed out on the Autumn Nations Cup due to officiating errors. And, there have been a number of other recent examples. On Saturday,Scotland were undermined by further mistakes: Wales were repeatedly offside in front of their line in the passage of play prior to Scotland’s correctly disallowed try, yet it was apparently not spotted by any if the officials, including the TMO. The definition of offside at a ruck was altered in 2019 to be the hindmost point of any ruck participant. This slight change in interpretation should make it very clear – it was certainly obvious on Saturday. In addition, in the final play of the game Chris Harris was prevented from fairly accessing the ball by Louis Rees Zammit clearly “holding on”, whilst Stuart Hogg (who never had the ball) was tackled off it by Liam Williams! There were other areas needing clarification: No punishment or citing for Liam Williams? No yellow card for Leigh Halfpenny/Darcy Graham challenge, despite “Not a fair challenge, no contest and the player is pulled down landing on his back or side” – taken from World Rugby Laws of the Game. If 4 pairs of eyes are not enough, perhaps Rugby needs to add extra officials with specific roles to ensure the laws are applied correctly. I am not a huge follower or fan of NFL, but 7 officials are needed to manage a stop-start game of 22 onfield players. Indeed, high school football generally has 5 officials!!

  12. I’m more incensed by the lack of citing against Liam Williams (a player with history of cheap shots) for his leading with the elbow into Lang’s head and repeating it again in the same incident. This is arguably a higher risk to the tackling player. If player welfare is truly to be protected there is rank hypocrisy or sheer incompetence involved here.

  13. Please appeal this and if required go to the Court if Arbitration for Sport as nothing can be done to change ZF’s actions however this fails on process and consistency and will have huge implications for rugby.

  14. Can’t believe Fagerson gets four weeks after O’Mahoney given three for a clearly more malicious incident. What is the point of having a “hearing” process if there is an additional penalty hanging over anyone who has the temerity to challenges what appears to be a predetermined outcome?

  15. O’Mahony 3 weeks, Fagerson 4! Is the six nations corrupt? I’ve always suspected that the laws are applied more vigorously to some

  16. It seems to me that Zander is being penalised for making any sort of challenge at the hearing. I suspect that he will have been given six weeks, reduced to three for a good record, if he had simply taken the rap. However, it is important that justice is served and the sanction appropriate and hence the entitlement of the accused to state his case. Justice should not only be available to those who plead guilty and simply accept the process. He should not be penalise more harshly, simply for stating his case. He should appeal – what does he, or Scotland and indeed Glasgow for that matter, have to lose.

    • Agreed and what is to loose, appeal and on the basis I suggested in my comment. Whilst I am at it: who on earth is Becky Essex? I suspect the usual ‘Tokenism’ and the ever increasing concern that Sue Grabbit and Run will have a field day in the Courts unless every ‘assault’ is treated as and sentenced as ‘Murder’: if you get my drift.

      • Ex England internationalist and now a head teacher at an infant school. She’ll be right at home with that panel.

      • Why single her out? There are three people on that panel. Based on a quick Google search only one appears not to have played rugby to a high standard and it’s nae her.

      • To single out Becky Essex as not being qualified to sit on the panel is sexist. Sex has absolutely no bearing on someone’s ability to do the job.

  17. if i were to tell you without seeing the game, that fagerson received a red card for an act of foul play, that resulted in a ban for the rest of the tournament, youd think rightly so its would be a punch, stamp or bite

    • Well last year Houras did get sent off for a punch on Jamie Ritchie and only got a 3 game ban. Which expired with no games being missed due to Covid.

  18. There is no doubt in my mind that Fagerson, or the SRU or whoever has the authority to contest this finding should do so as it is against ‘Natural Justice’ the definition of which is: Quote – ‘Essentially, natural justice requires that a person receive a fair and unbiased hearing before a decision is made that will negatively affect them. The three main requirements of natural justice that must be met in every case are: adequate notice, fair hearing and no bias’.

    It flies in the case of natural justice IF you can’t contest the application of a Law that in itself, by its nature has an aspect of dispute, namely the area of contact and the resultant actual force or area of contact any resultant [and genuine] discomfort of injurious effect, or the assessment merits decided by the Referee.

    In the case of Fagerson it was with regard to either the intent or especially the outcome of the incident that can’t be legislated for and as such is open to the accused contesting those values. Not to have that opportunity is against natural justice and to give an additional ‘punishment’ for what in effect is your mitigating defence is clearly contestable in itself by merit of questioning the bias aspect. In effect the hearing are saying ‘for contesting the judgement of our representative at the game we will give you an additional punishment’.

    I rest my case.

  19. Trying to see it from the panel’s perspective, it just makes no sense that this gets a harsher penalty than O’Mahoneys.

    I think, whilst many pundits have said the red was harsh, clearly this is the new standard of how things will be refereed now, and players and coaches need to learn cope with it. Ultimately it’s for player welfare, so is a really positive step in the right direction. But the Fagerson incident must set a precedent: unless the mitigation is beyond all doubt in the eyes of the referee, then all similar incidents must be given a red and a ban.

    The other precedent that needs to happen for player welfare is that if you have been hit in the head, and play is stopped to review the incident and indeed contact with the head is found and foul play decreed, you must be sent for an HIA. It can’t be right that players are able to play on afterwards without being checked.

    • What was particularly infuriating was that the TMO tried to tell the ref to consider the mitigating factor of Hogg rolling the Welsh player away and the clear consequence that had on where Fagerson made contact. But the ref would not countenance the idea of double-checking it, which is just wrong.

  20. I had it at six weeks mitigated to three. But this is absurd.

    His offence is nowhere near the level of O’Mahony. And I’m only using that that as the nearest reference point. I could point to many historically. In addition O’Mahony got two yellows back in October in a game against the Scarlets for exactly this kind of thing.

    I have no faith in the people that run the game anymore at any level.

  21. This judgement makes a mockery of the process and the laws of the game. Peter O’Mahoney has form, from cheap shots to outright thuggery in my view. His most recent indiscretion was blatant and he gets 3 game ban. Fagerson does not have the same history and was on any reasonable view just stupid but gets 4 game ban. There was an overall consensus including players from the rugby fraternity apart perhaps from some Irish, that POM’s card was deserved. There was no such consensus on Fagerson’s.
    That said there was contact to the head however slight and therefore had to be a red card under current laws.
    2 things need to happen I think. World rugby needs to clarify the mitigation point and ensure referees, TMO’s etc are consistent and as one on that. It was obvious from Fagerson incident that they were not. Disciplinary panels need to robustly apply the rules to the incident in front of them and a players history and not be swayed by weasel words at a hearing.

  22. Someone perhaps needs to advise Zanders advisor that accepting that it was an act of foul playing, but then not accepting it was a red card (when contact had been made with the head), is not a sensible or logical step.

    • Natural Justice allows for the accused to offer mitigation and that opportunity should not be at the danger of an additional punishment regardless of the validity of the accused argument. I suggest O’Mahony didn’t contest it because he has form and previous and the actions were barely disputable, Fagerson’s did not replicate O’Mahony’s actions and should be contestable on that basis.

    • The citing and disciplinary system is designed so that any objection is further punished.

      You either accept everything handed out and get on your knees or choose to object to some of it and have your punishment increased. There is no onus on the committee at all to have a balanced approach to the governance of the decision.

      It suggests the committee and the governing body can never be wrong, when in fact we have all seen that they are wrong on many occasions.

      It is a morally bankrupt practice that needs to change.

  23. O’Mahoney: Shoulder straight to head of a stationary player not involved in play.
    Fagerson: Shoulder glances a player in motion who is on the ball.

    O’Mahony: Previous red cards and, according to Nigel Owens, is known for this type of incident.
    Fagerson: No previous disciplinary issues that I’m aware of.

    Outcome: Longer ban for Fagerson than O’Mahoney.

    Absolute joke.

  24. What does not help are the comments from Gregor and Hamish…
    The officials hear and have a gripp with Scotland , not new.
    Of course the 4 weeks ban is absurd compare to 3 O’Mahoney.
    It is a big loss to Scotland for the rest if 6N.
    However, i hope the team will react with exceptionnal performances.

  25. If the incident was deemed to be a dangerous strike to the head, why wasn’t Wyn Jones automatically taken off for a HIA? Is this rugby’s fear of litigation 20 years on starting to dictate the game?

  26. Absolutete disgrace there is know comparison with this red card to the irishman’s red card, fagerson was clearing out a ruck and the tackler where the irish fella cleared out someone who wasnt and was blatant with the elbow, so how can you warrant a harsher sentance!! I understand player well fare but that is a disgrace and if thats the case should get rid of rucks all together, what else was he ment to do, ask him nicely to remove himself from the ruck!!

  27. Absolutely disgraceful, nonsense. Something is wrong here, seriously wrong and it stinks. The day World Rugby chooses education over punishment to make an example of will be the day real change will happen and the sport will become safer, this is at best treading water and making players and fans alike turn on the governing bodies.

    Is it a coincidence that the red card numbers have been higher now that the new breakdown rules have been introduced? No it’s not

    New breakdown rules brought in to speed up the pace of the game yet the physics of fatigued athletes at 100kgs in a collision sport is now punishable by removing time from a players career

    Sort it out. This has simply got to be addressed.

  28. Disgusting – any objective view would see that the POM incident was far more serious and yet Fagerson gets a longer ban for having the temerity to defend himself.

    Rugby governance is completely rotten.

  29. Broken system.

    Hamish Watson says it was a terrible decision by the ref
    TMO thought it was only a yellow
    Sam Warburton thought the red was harsh during the game
    Alun Wyn Jones even said he felt for him for getting a red for that.

    What benefit is there to banning the guy an extra 3 games, completely absurd. He should definitely appeal this one.

    Thats the guys lions chance taken away by this committee.

    • this ref should be refereeing girls under 12 rugby games. Completely & utterly ridiculous. If ref tried this in NZ, against an all black player, he’d be strung up. Maybe he was on the take ?

    • Reasonable point about Lions selection and the system is becoming too judgemental especially with the knowledge that at a minimum you will get a 3 game ban or more should you attempt to contest the supposed authority of the Referee.

  30. What can you say, other than a joke. Sentence has to be compared with O’mahoney, who cleared out a player lying prone on his back, and he has previous, compared to fagerson clearing out someone contesting the ball. Lots of opinions from players and former players not all Scottish who think it was a yellow at most as probably did the TMO. SRU must appeal , after all nothing to lose.

  31. Roll the dice, get a sentence. I understand that he was always going to get a ban, but his being longer than O’Mahony’s seems odd, at best. How Liam Williams got no citing coming out of that game makes the process seem too much of a lottery.

    Either every play in the game should be audited with a fine toothed comb and discipline should be handed out, or only true foul play should be.

    • watching it over & over again, realise there was absolutely nothing it in. Scotland should have sent ref off & if he didn’t go, they should have walked off until they got a competent ref. What’s going on with this game ? Being run by dodgy lawyers now ?

  32. Red was deserved but nothing more. This is utterly and completely absurd. Heads have got to roll for this decision. I cannot believe it.

  33. Utterly insane. I do think it warranted a red, but he was at least playing a man who was on his feet and had hands on the ball – compared with POM who played a man who was on the floor and therefore out of the game.

  34. So the TMO thought it was a yellow at worst, but somehow the ban ends up longer than O’Mahoney who deliberately swung an arm through a player’s head and has a track record of foul play?

    Makes no sense!

    • I wonder if the TMO is regretting bringing the incident to the referee’s attention. He obviously thought action was required but clearly did not expect a red card.

  35. Well there is the answer, if you don’t Brown-nose you get an extra week. Not sure why they call it a hearing if they are not prepared to listen without an additional punishment.
    And the HIA for Wyn Jones who 2 minutes later scored a try? As they say ‘go figure’.


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