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'That's a rugby incident' - Consenus forms rapidly on Freddie Steward red

By Ian Cameron
Referee Jaco Peyper explains his decision to send off England's Freddie Steward during the Guinness Six Nations match at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Picture date: Saturday March 18, 2023. (Photo by Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images)

England fullback Freddie Steward was sent off with a red card during the Six Nations Grand Slam decider match against Ireland in Dublin – and Twitter is vexed.


Steward was shown a red card by referee Jaco Peyper for hitting Ireland fullback Hugo Keenan in the head with his elbow during an aborted attempt to contest a ball with the Ireland fullback. The decision has sparked a debate among fans, with most believing the punishment was too severe.

Steward’s red card came just before halftime, with England captain Owen Farrell heard on the ref mic expressing his disbelief at the decision. He could be heard saying, “Oh no. A red card? He was trying to get out of the contact?”

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England was already down 10-6 and Steward’s expulsion has left Steve Borthwick’s team with only 14 players on the field and a tough task in the second half.

Even Irish commentators Alan Quinland and Andrew Trimble admitted that the decision was harsh on Steward, who had very little options open to him to avoid Keenan.

On social media, many fans expressed their disappointment with the decision to send Steward off. Some argued that it was a harsh punishment for what appeared to be an accident, while others suggested that the referee was overreacting.


Former England prop Joe Marler was furious, writing: “Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. In fact it’s complete and utter boll***s.”

Andy Goode wrote: “Awful call from Jaco Peyper, that’s a rugby incident never a red card for Steward.”


“Never red for Freddie Steward,” wrote Ewan MacKenna. “Can slow anything down to make it look brutal. Play in real time and it’s unfortunate and accidental collision that maybe, maybe, warrants yellow for careless recklessness. Always telling, if that was an Irish red you’d be livid.”

“That red card for Freddie Steward a bit harsh?,” wrote Martyn Ziegler of The Times. “Grand Slam in the bag now.”

Rugby Youtuber Andrew Forde wrote: “I actually can’t believe that, no chance was that a red card for Steward.”

There were plenty more in that vein:

Others defended the call from Peyper: “Steward’s action is reckless, dangerous and could’ve been avoided with his clear line of sight. These are elite rugby players. It gives similar vibes to CJ Stander’s red card against SA a few years ago on Pat Lambie. The players still have a duty of care.”


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