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'Glad I retired': Nigel Owens wades into Bristol red card debate

By Liam Heagney
Referee Pierre Brousset shows a red card to Bristol's Josh Caulfield (Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Retired referee Nigel Owens has shared his thoughts about the overturned disciplinary hearing red card decision involving Bristol second row Josh Caulfield.


The Bears lock was sent off last Friday in Galway by French referee Pierre Brousset in the 13th minute of his team’s Investec Champions Cup match at Connacht for stamping on Ireland prop Finlay Bealham.

Bristol went on to lose the game 27-10, a result that left them propping up the bottom of the six-team table and failing to progress in the competition.

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However, it has now emerged that the red card brandished to Caulfield was unwarranted and the English club’s forward is available for selection for their Gallagher Premiership fixture at home to Bath this Saturday.

According to an EPCR statement revealing the disciplinary hearing decision reached by Paul Thomas (Wales, chair), Marcello D’Orey (Portugal) and Stefan Terblanche (South Africa), “The committee determined that Caulfield had committed an act of foul play. However, it found that the offence did not warrant a red card and the red card decision was therefore overturned.”

The outcome left Owens, the world’s second most capped Test referee behind fellow retiree Wayne Barnes, bemused and he took to X (formerly Twitter) to express his dissatisfaction that Brousset’s red card decision wasn’t upheld.


“How can they say this is foul play but not red card,” he began. “If it’s not foul play and complete accident then play on. If it’s reckless and foul play then it has to be RC. For what it’s worth, it’s a RC for me as it’s not a natural action of rucking and reckless. Glad I retired.”

After sharing his initial thoughts, Owens was asked by a reader, Chris Tate, “Would you not account for the fact he himself took a boot to the face a split second before?” Owens replied: “If you think that causes this then play on, no foul play. Am not too sure myself so if it is foul play then it has to be RC.”

Owens’ original post was in response to a tweet from Peter Jackson, the former long-serving Daily Mail rugby correspondent, who suggested: “Rugby’s capacity for making itself a laughing stock knows no bounds.

“A disciplinary panel finds Josh Caulfield guilty of foul play but that “the offence did not warrant a red card”. So a reckless boot to the head is ok? And the game keeps spouting on about player welfare.”



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1 Comment
Tom 174 days ago

It's like when players get a penalty or yellow card for a high tackle when they've hit someone in the head but there has been extreme mitigation. E.g. the ball carrier has slipped and fallen rapidly at the last moment. Even though the tackler was using good technique and would have otherwise hit the ball carrier in the waist, they'll give a yellow card and say there was mitigation.

Sometimes a red card is necessary, sometimes a yellow card is necessary but sometimes it's just a rugby incident. You can't penalize or give yellow cards for rugby incidents. Completely agree with Nige here. Either Caulfield gets a red card and a ban or it was a freak accident and it wasn't foul play.

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Turlough 1 hours ago
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