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Borthwick on Farrell's red, three yellows, van Poortvliet's injury

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England boss Steve Borthwick has reacted to the red card suffered by skipper Owen Farrell in Saturday’s dramatic 19-17 Summer Nations Series win over Wales at Twickenham. Farrell became the third English player to be yellow carded in an incredible seven-minute spell in London, taking a seat in the sin bin on the touchline alongside Ellis Genge and Freddie Steward.


Genge – who was carded after a general scrum warming resulted in him becoming the fall guy at the next infringement – and Steward – who was binned for taking out Josh Adams in the air at the cost of a penalty try – were both able to return to the game and spark a compelling England fight back from 9-17 in arrears to win by two points.

However, Farrell was told while in the bin that his yellow card had been upgraded to red by the TMO bunker. He was deemed to have crashed his shoulder into the head of Taine Basham with “a high degree of danger” and that there was “no mitigation”.

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On being told he had now committed a red card offence, Farrell got up from his sin bin chair and headed down the Twickenham tunnel to the England dressing room.

During his absence, sub out-half George Ford played a starring role in getting his team around the park and after striking back with a converted try from Maro Itoje on 68 minutes, Ford then landed the win-clinching points with a 75th-minute penalty kick.

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In total, England were brandished a total of four cards as Henry Arundell was also sin-binned in the first half for cynically preventing Liam Williams from attacking with a quick tap-and-go after he had taken a mark in his 22.

In the aftermath of the victory, which was only Borthwick’s third in seven outings as head coach, he defended his team’s discipline and refused to be drawn into making specific comments on the Farrell sending-off.


The England skipper, who needed to successfully complete tackle school at the start of the 2023 to be free to play against Scotland due to a four-game ban following a cited tackle for Saracens, now faces a disciplinary hearing.

Anything more than a two-game suspension will see him miss the start of next month’s Rugby World Cup versus Argentina in Marseille on September 9 as England have just two warm-up matches remaining (against Ireland next Saturday and Fiji on August 26).

“I think right now it would be wrong for me to comment upon an individual incident that is going to likely go through a disciplinary procedure,” said Borthwick, side-stepping the query when asked about Farrell seeing red.

“I know you wouldn’t expect me to comment on it if it is going to a disciplinary procedure. To be clear, what I will say is we are fully supportive of working on a player’s tackle. I will say that without any comment on an individual incident.


“The key word there is if (Farrell will be banned) and what we will do is we will wait and see and deal with facts as I know you would expect me to. Deal with the facts of the situation. We will find the facts out very soon and we will deal with them.

“We always know, and I think I said to you previously when I discussed the make-up of the 33 (in the World Cup squad), I said having three players in key positions was very, very important in those specialist positions. So we always worked on the depth in those positions.

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“George is a world-class player as is Marcus (Smith). That shows the depth we have. I’m sure many countries would want that depth. Now in terms of our game working with this squad of players, we saw today we have developed in our set-piece, developed in our defence, developed in our kicking game.

“It was a step forward from last week and again from an attack point of view, we need to ensure we take our chances and clearly having quality players working together for a longer period will ensure we take those chances.”

But what about the tally of four yellow cards in a single match, one of which was upgraded to red, and there is also the possibility that Steward could yet have a citing case to answer. “From my point of view, I don’t comment on situations like that,” he said in reference to Steward.

He added with regard to Farrell: “I tend to deal with facts, I’ll wait to find the facts out which I am sure we will find out in the next two to three days and when we have clarity then we will make a plan.

“One of the simple generalisations is to say cards. If you look at each one they were unique to the other one. Everyone one of them was absolutely separate. We will look at each of them independently. That is an important aspect to do.

“I am sure you have all the facts in terms of the discipline of the England team, it has improved over the last period of time. Last week we gave away six penalties, today the last count I saw was 12 which is exactly the same as Wales and last week they were eight.


“The England team is actually improving discipline considerably, and I am disappointed with the cards today. Let’s make this categoric so this is clear for everybody, we want 15 players on the pitch, I coach 15 players on the pitch.

“We know cards are part of the game now and we have practiced those scenarios on the pitch and we did it this week. Now I must say we didn’t go down to 12 in the scenario. I don’t want to have to do that one, we don’t want to be in this situation again.”

Aside from the hot topic of discipline, England were also left nursing concern over the extent of the first-half ankle injury that forced off scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet. “JP is a positive character. Let’s wait and see what happens, we will get the scan, find out the situation and from there will make a plan.”


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bob 342 days ago

Certainly not the best game that I have watched. The spectators wasted money on their tickets.
How many of their own throw ins at line outs did the Welsh lose?

James 342 days ago

Surely someone reads this before it’s posted on here? Spelling mistakes and apparently England got 4 yellows…. You got it right in the title! Come on rugbypass, there’s more errors on here than the Welsh Lineout…

Al 342 days ago

Probably the worst game of rugby I've ever watched. Time for Borthwick to be fired. England will not make it out of the pool stage.

GrahamVF 342 days ago

Farrell has been getting away with his brand of tackling for years. Butch James the WC winning Bok fly half had the same problem but he managed to correct his tackle technique and win a WC. Farrell just can't get it right.

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Shaylen 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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