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Anthony Watson banned following tweet posted while icing his knee

By Liam Heagney

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Injured England international Anthony Watson has been handed a one-week suspended ban for a social media message he posted about the Bath Gallagher Premiership defeat to Wasps on October 30. The 2017 and 2021 Lions Test series pick was selected in the original England squad for their three-game Autumn Nations Series. However, he suffered an ACL rupture when playing in the league against Saracens on October 17.

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That injury will, unfortunately, likely sideline him until the start of the 2022/23 season. In the meantime, Watson has had to watch from the sidelines as his club struggles and the sixth Bath defeat in a campaign where they have so far lost all seven matches to leave them bottom of the table infuriated him so much that he expressed his anger on social media.

During the second half of the 17-27 defeat for Bath at home to Wasps, Watson tweeted: “Here we go again. Where he is supposed to wrap?! Obsurd (sic) decision).” It was in relation to the incident that resulted in a red card for his teammate Mike Williams for a tackle on Jimmy Gopperth.

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Guess the celebrity Rose | Adebayo Akinfenwa | England Rugby
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An exception was taken to this comment and Watson had to appear at an independent disciplinary hearing where the panel that comprised Gareth Graham (chair) with Julian Morris and Rob Vickerman.

An RFU statement read: “Watson was charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Union and/or The Game, contrary to RFU rule 5.12. This was for comments on social media about a decision made by the referee during the match between Bath and Wasps on October 30.

“Watson accepted the charge and was given a one-week suspension by the independent disciplinary panel. That one-week ban is suspended until the end of the 2022/23 season. Watson is required to prepare and deliver a presentation to the senior squad, the academy squad, and the rugby department at Bath by January 14.”

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In the twelve-page written judgment accompanying the RFU statement, Watson explained in a written statement: “I was sat at home icing my knee when I decided to upload a tweet questioning the decision of the referee in a game concerning both my club and teammate. I would like to record my remorse for my actions, it was never my intention to bring the game into disrepute and my ignorance surrounding the matter is not acceptable.

“My actions cannot be explained simply by shifting the blame or placing extreme emphasis on my circumstances. I understand I must be accountable for my actions. However, contextually I believe it’s important to understand how difficult the past month or so has been for me. 

“A week prior to this game I suffered a potentially season-ending knee injury, which alone is not the easiest thing to deal with. However, when coupled with the fact that a mere two years ago I spent 13 months on the sideline watching my team and rehabilitating a double ruptured achilles, it can explain some level of the frustration I am feeling. 

“I am unable to contribute to my team in the most constructive manner I know how. This is further exacerbated when you analyse the poor start to the season my club has had, and the personal desperation for my club to win games and succeed. Whilst again, I will emphasise that none of this goes a way to explain my actions, I would like the context of my personal situation to be understood.

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“In addition to this, my tweet remained uploaded until November 9 purely because I did not want to interfere with the process of the disciplinary (I was notified on the 1st so had ample time to delete). This was not by any means not deleted due to hard-headedness. 

“I deleted it on November 9 when the disciplinary hearing had scheduled a date and everything was formalised. It was also done prior to any media outlets being notified to stop any unnecessary press activity. Once again, I am deeply sorry for my actions, it is not something that will happen again.”

At the hearing, the judicial panel outlined they had received a letter from Mike Priestley of the RFU referees union, and Tim Miller, an RFI referees council representative. It stated: “It is no secret that the number of referees taking up the whistle again after such a prolonged layoff is causing concern.

“It’s a situation exacerbated by many of our members leaving the game having become disillusioned with, amongst other things, persistent challenging of their decisions and unfortunately, some serious incidences of match official abuse.

“Worse still, enticing new referees, especially young match officials, into the game becomes that more challenging. The refereeing community is a relatively tight-knit one and incidents of abuse and disrespect for the role soon permeate amongst officials, undermining their confidence and commitment.

“Furthermore, we cannot stress the impact that poor behaviour towards match officials, be it challenging decisions, appealing, disrespect or abuse, within the professional end of our game has on the wider game.”

  • Click here for the full written judgment issued by the RFU

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Anthony Watson banned following tweet posted while icing his knee

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