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Freddie Steward storm rumbles on as England legend brands red 'utter farce'

By Ian Cameron
Hugo Keenan of Ireland goes down after a tackle by Freddie Steward of England, resulting in a red card for Freddie Steward, during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and England at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The debate around the red card shown to Freddie Steward during Ireland and England’s Six Nations game in Dublin last night continues to spark controversy this Sunday morning.


The 6’5, 110kg England fullback was sent off just before halftime after his elbow made contact with Ireland fullback Hugo Keenan’s head. Keenan left the field for a head injury assessment, ultimately failing to return.

Former England scrumhalf Matt Dawson has labelled it “an utter farce”. He and many others argue that Steward did not intend to make contact with Keenan’s head and that the collision was simply an unfortunate accident which is impossible to avoid in a contact sport.

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“The officials are showing a lack of understanding of the game. I can’t disagree with how the contact is a red but it is the context of how it went to that contact,” Dawson said on BBC Radio 5 Live. “He is stepping and slowing and turning to get out of the contact area, and has been punished by being sent off. It is a mockery.

“He was doing his utmost to avoid any kind of contact. It is an utter farce.”

Newcastle Falcons press officer Mark Smith wrote: “Is Freddie Steward meant to just vaporise and disappear? Bloke ran in to him head-first and he was just bracing for impact. All for player safety, but what can he actually do there?”

The Rugby Paper’s Neil Fissler wrote: “The more you look at the Freddie Steward red card the more it looks like an awful decision. If they aren’t careful this is going to be a non contact sport.”


Bristol Bears women’s player Simi Pam wrote: “What could Freddie Steward have done differently in that situation? It was a reflex. He braced to protect himself and unfortunately the Irish player hit his elbow. It’s just one of those things that happen when you play a contact sport in my opinion.”

Mike Bubbins wrote: “That really is incredibly harsh on Freddie Steward. I am a major advocate of making the game safer, but I don’t see what else he could do, there. He’s been one of Englands best players this Six Nations.”

Steward will now face a Guinness Six Nations disciplinary panel and it will be fascinating to see whether the red is reduced to a yellow card.



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