Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global

Kevin Sinfield: The 'one in 2,000 tackles' verdict on Owen Farrell

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Kevin Sinfield has urged England fans not to turn on Owen Farrell after recalling the vilification of David Beckham after the 1998 World Cup. Farrell has seen his red card for a dangerous challenge in Saturday’s Summer Nations Series victory over Wales overturned in a shock disciplinary verdict that clears him to play against Ireland this weekend.


Sinfield believes the criticism Farrell has faced since he was sent off at Twickenham is more intense because of his status as England captain and draws a similarity to Beckham’s dismissal for kicking Argentina’s Diego Simeone 25 years ago.

When Beckham returned from the World Cup in France, he experienced a nasty backlash from disgruntled supporters to the point that an effigy of the Manchester United midfielder dangled from a hangman’s noose near Upton Park.

Video Spacer

Kiwi pundits react to Owen Farrell’s red | The Breakdown

Video Spacer

Kiwi pundits react to Owen Farrell’s red | The Breakdown

“Owen is England captain and he understands that it is part of the territory,” England defence coach Sinfield said. “In any sport, if you are England captain the noise and the heat, the magnitude of it is bigger than if it were anyone else.

“I’ll go back a long, long time to the 1998 World Cup when Beckham gets sent off. If it had been any other player, it probably wouldn’t have been the same.


“I’m not suggesting that Owen is like Beckham at all. I don’t even think that Beckham was England captain at that time. But there are certain players who get a lot of heat. I don’t think Owen overly puts himself out there. He is a really good guy who wants to get better and wants to help the team. Some of it I don’t understand.

“I understand some of the noise. Some of it I don’t get either. You guys have tried to hang him when it is one poorly-timed tackle. We need to get some balance to this. If it is Owen, the heat that is generated is far greater than if it was anyone else.”


Farrell was banned as recently as January for a high tackle on Gloucester’s Jack Clement and was also suspended in 2016 and 2020 for the same offence. Sinfield insists those challenges are anomalies.

“I know how hard Owen is working on his tackle technique and I know what he has done through the Six Nations, and with Saracens,” Sinfield said.

“This is a guy who wants to improve and get better. He has made one mistake. Players are human. Owen has worked incredibly hard. Since our last incident, he has probably been involved in about 2,000 tackles.

“I have overseen the vast majority of them as he has been with us. He has been exceptional. Referees get things wrong, we all get things wrong in this room, we know that, and Owen is human.


“It may happen again and if it does I would ask that it is judged fairly. This is probably one in 2,000 tackles he has got wrong.”


Join free



Trending on RugbyPass


Christopher 338 days ago

Really disappointed in these comments. The amount of complaining by Rugby fans.... May as well be football. The irony is not wasted on me that I am complaining about people complaining. I'm a big Farrell fan and even though he is a professional player, I can understand why he inevitably might get it wrong. As Sinfield has said, he makes thousands of tackles and has logged three or four mistakes. It's a fast dynamic game that most of us can only try and compare with our town club level rugby and think it translates. It doesn't! Try and think what everyday work task you do and track when it's in the thousands, I'm sure if you had integrity you can acknowledge mistakes are made. I do not believe he is a thug but a tough and very competitive player. All the best look forward England.

Red 338 days ago

All England games where Farrell is named should be boycotted. Hit the powers where it hurts, in their pockets

Dave 338 days ago

If Farrell or Borthwck had an ounce of integrity, Farrell would not be playing this weekend at the very least.

I truly hope England's fans boo and jeer him every time he touches the ball. It's the least he deserves.

Robert 338 days ago

Read Sean Edwards comments earlier today. Rugby is a contact sport and tun in real time. Accidents happen.

Tristan 338 days ago

So he's trying really hard to improve? Over 10 years as a professional player and 100 international caps plus club games. Slow learner then? The entire drive to improve both safety and consistency has just died.

Dave 339 days ago

What an absolute moron. Beckham was a world class player and international icon, that's why he faced such scrutiny. Farrell is a bang average player who would never be selected for any of the top 4 teams in the world. He is disliked because he's dirty and embodies everything the rest of the world hate about England rugby: Spoiled, petulant, dirty with 0 sportsmanship (think refusing to wear their runners up medals in 2019). But most of all, people just don't like dirty many times has he thrown cheap shots like this? He is a coward.

CRZ38L 339 days ago

This is just so wrong on so many levels. There will be another player who makes the same tackle as Farrell during the upcoming RWC and they will be banned, mark my words.

If I was the coach of that team, I would refuse to take the field for the remainder of the competition, which would make the rest of the RWC null and void.

Why should Farrell and England receive special treatment? Even the London Telegraph wants Farrell banned.

This decision goes against everything World Rugby is trying to get out of the game around contact to the head.

Charles 339 days ago

Seriously? Bad tackles happen, it's a fast physical game. But when a shocking tackle happens then accept the punishment. So 2 problems here - Farrell's continuous approach which puts safety and well-being as a second priority, and the association overturning the referee and everyone's verdict. Overall disgraceful to the sport, really puts me off rugby union, this is spoiling a great sport. Slaps in the face of people trying to make sport safe.

Utiku Old Boy 339 days ago

English rugby reminding the rest of the rugby world why their team is widely despised. Arrogance, whining, preferential treatment from officials - all undermines their players in obvious attempt to help them win.

Arthur 339 days ago

Sinfield has just flushed his good reputation down the pan with that comment. A shocking tackle, no real impact made by George, a disgraceful disciplinary result. This has thrown rugby integrity under the bus.

Load More Comments

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

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.

41 Go to comments
FEATURE 'Ireland could end up with 20 Lions after winning back the world's respect' 'Ireland could end up with 20 Lions after winning back the world's respect'