Freddie Steward escapes ban and has red card rescinded

·3-min read
Freddie Steward escapes ban after red card rescinded
Freddie Steward escapes ban after red card rescinded

Freddie Steward has had his red card rescinded by a review panel after he was sent off in England’s defeat to Ireland in Dublin for making a dangerous tackle on Hugo Keenan.

Steward was sent off because, while bracing for contact, his elbow made contact with Keenan's head. The incident happened towards the end of the first half, with Ireland going on to win 29-16 to secure the Grand Slam. Keenan failed a head injury assessment following the incident and did not return.

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Nigel Owens, writing for Telegraph Sport, warned the ruling risks causing confusion throughout the game with leading referees left divided by the decision.

At a hearing on Tuesday evening, an independent disciplinary commission amended the charge against Steward from Law 9.13, which states:

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.

to Law 9.11, which states:

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.

Steward denied he had committed an act of foul play, with the committee finding that head contact with an opposing player had occurred and Steward had been reckless in his actions and in his upright positioning as he approached and came into highly dangerous contact with the other player.

However, the commission ruled that 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.

Steward's red card has therefore not been upheld and he is free to play, meaning he could feature in Leicester's Gallagher Premiership game with Bristol on Saturday.

In a defence of Jaco Peyper, without mentioning by name the referee who sent Steward off, the statement regarding Steward's disciplinary hearing added: "The committee acknowledged that match officials are required to make decisions under pressure and in the heat of a live match environment.

Steward at the time before being issued a red card attempted to defend himself by explaining to Peyper that he had a "millisecond" to react, with a pass from Mack Hansen to Keenan going to ground before Steward and Keenan collided. Peyper at the time responded by telling Steward he had time to "turn your shoulder" to avoid the contact, adding there was no mitigation.

The decision to send Steward off was slammed at the time by former England captain Will Carling, describing it as a "b----- joke" while adding that Steward was "protecting himself".

Steward's England and Leicester team-mate Anthony Watson also leapt to his defence. "I don’t know what Freddie could have done, which is why it’s even harder for him to take. It’s why he’s probably more upset," Watson said.