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22nd Mar 2023

Freddie Steward’s ref-mic comments vindicated as England star free to play

Niall McIntyre

Freddie Steward is free to play immediately after having his red card overturned.

The England fullback was sent off after a collision with Hugo Keenan during Saturday’s Six Nations clash but that card has now been rescinded after a meeting of the Independent Disciplinary Committee.

The red card has been the subject of much conjecture in recent days. Some, like Brain O’Driscoll felt the red card was deserved but others, like Bernard Jackman, didn’t think it should even have been a penalty.

“In the past, that’s a rugby incident,” said O’Driscoll. “In the modern game… the only way that happens is if he comes in at a different speed”

Englishmen such as Matt Dawson and Andy Goode have also made their opinions clear – Dawson said it was an ‘utter farce’ while Goode says it should never have been a red card.

Steward had been overheard pleading on Jaco Peyper’s ref-mic saying that he only had a ‘millisecond,’ that he ‘had nowhere to go and was bracing for impact.’ The committee seem to have accepted that point of view.

Read their statement below.

“England fullback Freddie Steward appeared before an independent Disciplinary Committee via video link having received a red card in the Guinness Six Nations match between Ireland and England on Saturday 18th March 2023 played at the Aviva Stadium.

“The Red Card was issued as a result of the Referee concluding that the Player had acted contrary to Law 9.13 (A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.

“Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders).

“The independent Disciplinary Committee consisting of Nigel Hampton KC – Chair (New Zealand), Frank Hadden (Scotland) and John Langford (Australia) heard the case, and considered all the available evidence, including multiple broadcast angles and submissions from the Player and his representative.

“After hearing the submissions, the Disciplinary Committee formally amended the Law which was breached to Law 9.11 (Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others including leading with the elbow or forearm, or jumping into, or over, a tackler).

“The player denied that he had committed an act of foul play worthy of a red card as described in Law 9.11.

“Having reviewed all the evidence, the Committee decided that: (i) head contact with an opposing player had occurred; (ii) there had been an act of foul play in breach of Law 9.11 in that the Player had been reckless in his actions and in his upright positioning as he approached and came into highly dangerous contact with the other player; and (iii) there were sufficient mitigating factors including the late change in the dynamics and positioning of the opposing player which should have resulted in the issue of a yellow card rather than a red card.”

“On that basis, the Committee did not uphold the red card and the player is free to play again immediately. The Committee acknowledged that match officials are required to make decisions under pressure and in the heat of a live match environment.”

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