England captain and flyhalf Owen Farrell will miss the first two matches of their World Cup campaign after his four-match ban for foul play was upheld.
England captain Owen Farrell will miss the first two matches of the Rugby World Cup after an independent disciplinary hearing upheld his red card on Tuesday, handing the flyhalf a four-match suspension including Pool D fixtures against Argentina and Japan.
England’s 29-10 loss to Ireland on Saturday served as the first match of his ban, and he will also sit out the final warm-up fixture against Fiji this coming weekend.
Farrell faced a second disciplinary panel in a week after World Rugby appealed against the decision to downgrade his red card to yellow for a dangerous tackle on Wales loose-forward Taine Basham during England’s 19-17 warm-up win on August 12.
RED CARD STANDS: England captain Owen Farrell banned for four matches after World Rugby wins appeal https://t.co/sXiIK8IULt
— Daily Maverick (@dailymaverick) August 23, 2023
Last week, the judicial committee verdict that there were mitigating circumstances in the collision, in which his shoulder struck the head of Basham, caused an uproar on social media and among pundits, as well as player welfare advocates.
The hearing panel on Tuesday said the committee was “manifestly wrong” in its verdict as they did not consider that Farrell had not attempted to wrap his arms in the tackle, and therefore it was always illegal.
No mitigating circumstances could therefore be applied.
“The Appeal Committee unanimously determined that in the original hearing the Disciplinary Committee should have considered the attempt of the player to wrap his opponent in the tackle. This point did not feature in the original decision,” a statement from Six Nations Rugby said.
“As this element did not feature in the original decision, the Appeal Committee decided it was in the interests of justice to hear the case afresh on that key point alone, which included hearing from the player.”
It brings to an end a saga that has unsettled England’s preparations for the World Cup and the plans of coach Steve Borthwick.
Both Borthwick and Andy Farrell, Owen’s father and Ireland coach, last week slammed the disciplinary process and criticised World Rugby’s decision to appeal.
Borthwick faces another anxious wait over the fate of the only specialist number eight in his World Cup squad Billy Vunipola.
He received a red card in Saturday’s loss in Ireland, and could also miss several of England’s early games in the tournament. The verdict in his hearing is expected on Wednesday.
England, runners-up to South Africa at the 2019 World Cup, will also face Samoa and Chile in Pool D.
This year’s World Cup runs from September 8 to October 28 in France.