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Owen Farrell to miss start of Rugby World Cup after 10-hour appeal reinstates red card

Owen Farrell to miss start of Rugby World Cup after 10-hour appeal reinstates red card

Owen Farrell will miss the opening two matches of the Rugby World Cup in a major blow to England’s campaign in France.

Captain Farrell is banned for England’s World Cup opener against Argentina in Marseille on Saturday, September 9, and then the clash with Japan eight days later.

The England captain has been hit with a four-week suspension for his high tackle on Wales’ Taine Basham, following a World Rugby appeal of the original rescinding of his red card.

Farrell was sent off in England’s 19-17 win over Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, August 12, with his yellow card upgraded to red by the new bunker review system.

The 31-year-old then argued against the red card in his disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, August 15 however – with the three-strong independent panel overturning the dismissal.

Farrell was deemed free to play but World Rugby contested the decision, insisting the 107-cap fly-half’s challenge was always illegal as he had not wrapped his arm.

World Rugby were able to prove that contention in a lengthy appeal, that was understood to have run to almost 10 hours.

Farrell will miss Saturday’s final World Cup warm-up clash against Fiji at Twickenham, while the Saracens star’s omission from last weekend’s 29-10 defeat in Ireland also counts towards his four-week suspension.

England stood Farrell down from that Dublin encounter despite the Lions playmaker being available for selection, amid disrupted preparations and the continued disciplinary wrangles hanging above his head.

England boss Steve Borthwick’s World Cup preparations could yet be dealt another blow meanwhile, with Billy Vunipola also in a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday night.

Vunipola was sent off in England’s five-try loss in Ireland, for a high tackle on prop Andrew Porter. The 30-year-old could be looking at a ban of three to four weeks should the disciplinary panel uphold the sending off.

England will look to ride out Farrell’s suspension through leaning on fellow fly-halves George Ford and Marcus Smith, with the skipper then to be eased back into proceedings for the final two pool matches against Chile and Samoa. Head coach Borthwick would look to follow a similar plan with Vunipola, with Ben Earl and Lewis Ludlam options to deputise at No8.

The Six Nations ran the disciplinary process for Farrell’s red card, and explained why World Rugby’s appeal had proved successful.

“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,” read a Six Nations statement.

Billy Vunipola also faces a ban (Getty Images)
Billy Vunipola also faces a ban (Getty Images)

“This point did not feature in the original decision. 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.

“The appeal committee subsequently determined that the tackle was ‘always illegal’. When applying the terms of World Rugby’s head contact process, no mitigation can be applied to a tackle that is ‘always illegal’.”

World Rugby will feel vindicated in their decision to appeal, a rare step in itself – with pulling off a successful challenge requiring a high burden of proof of procedural error.

England will be left to lick the wounds of celebrating their captain being free to play a week ago, only to face a four-week ban in a near two-week disciplinary process.