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Banned Robinson explains his 'hung me out to dry' tackle on Biggar

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

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One-time England prospect Sean Robinson has suffered a double punishment for his red-carded tackle on Wales out-half Dan Biggar during the season-ending Newcastle defeat at Northampton in the Gallagher Premiership on June 4. He has been banned for three matches for the foul – and he also fractured his cheekbone in the incident and will need surgery to put it right.

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The 31-year-old was an England call-up for last year’s Summer Series but he sustained a medial collateral ligament injury at national team training, opening the door for Bath’s Josh McNally to get called up instead and go on to make a Test debut against the USA at Twickenham.

Robinson returned to action with Newcastle at the start of the 2021/22 season, making 22 appearances in total, but he will be absent for the early matches of the 2022/23 campaign following his ban which the Falcons are looking to reduce to two games by enrolling the player on the World Rugby coaching intervention programme.

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An RFU statement read: “The case of Newcastle Falcons player Sean Robinson was heard by an independent disciplinary panel on Monday, June 13. It was chaired by Gareth Graham with Becky Essex and Olly Kohn.

“Robinson received a red card for dangerous tackling contrary to World Rugby law 9.13 for an incident during the game against Northampton Saints on June 4. Robinson accepted the charge and received a three-week ban which will be reduced to two weeks if the player completes the World Rugby coaching intervention programme.

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In the ten-page written judgement accompanying the statement, Robinson explained what had happened when Newcastle played at Franklin’s Gardens. “These are my recollections of the incident: Northampton had made a line break and were attacking our left-hand side of the field about ten metres from our line. I was covering across from midfield and found myself with Dan attacking our line with two players outside of him. I had outside of me Mateo Carreras.

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“Normally in this situation I would talk to Mateo, asking him to stick with Dan until I had got him covered so that he could then slide onto the next attacker and then when I had past Dan, the same thing would happen again or alternatively, Mateo would fly in anticipating Dan getting the ball and take man and ball.

“However, in this instance, as Dan passed the ball to the player outside, Mateo stepped in late to make the tackle on Dan. This hung me out to dry, and with Dan doing what you would expect in this situation, straightening up to square the defender(s), and with myself travelling at speed to cover the necessary distance quickly, I had no time to adjust and nowhere to go.

“Mateo went low, which meant I couldn’t. I tried to avoid a heavy collision by trying to push Dan away but found my right leg across his body as we collided. The back of his head caught my cheekbone. When he passed the ball I was about two metres from him travelling at full pace. The whole incident happened in a fraction of a second and was a complete accident in the sense that there was no intention to cause a collision.

“I immediately apologised to Dan because between Mateo and me, we had got it wrong, more so Mateo than me. I had defended conventionally and Mateo had neither stepped in to take man and ball or slid out. Had there been an element of recklessness about what I had done I would certainly hold my hand up to it but my own player went out of the system which caused the collision.

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“At the point of contact, we are all looking at where the ball has been played. As a result of the collision, I have a fractured cheekbone which will require surgery at the end of the week.”

The panel accepted this was a reckless act of foul play, stating that Robinson didn’t reduce his tackle height in the dynamic incident but there was no evidence that he had intended to make contact with Biggar’s head.

“This was a reckless act of foul play in which the player made direct (and forceful) contact with the head of No10. Where an act of foul play results in contact with the head/neck, a mandatory minimum mid-range entry point applies,” the panel explained, adding that the six-week entry point would be reduced to a three-week suspension.

“At this stage, the club only has limited information as to its fixtures over the summer. The club is to liaise with the RFU once the player is fit to return to play following his surgery and once the club’s fixtures are known so that the RFU can assess which fixtures ought to be taken into consideration by way of meaningful sanction.

“The player is to remain suspended from playing until the fixtures to be taken into account have been confirmed. The club indicated its intention to apply to World Rugby to access the coaching intervention programme. The panel gave permission for the club to apply.”

  • Click here to read the ten-page written judgement. 

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