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Nigel Owens: The red card that was missed in Six Nations round four

By Liam Heagney
Referee Damon Murphy (centre) with Karl Dickson and Chris Busby in Rome (Photo by Timothy Rogers/Getty Images)

Seasoned Test referee Nigel Owens has claimed that a red card was missed in last weekend’s Guinness Six Nations round four match between Italy and Wales. Azzurri winger Pierre Bruno was yellow carded by Australian referee Damon Murphy early in the second half for a forearm into the neck of Wyn Jones, but Owens believed it should have been a red card.

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Murphy, who was refereeing only his second-ever Guinness Six Nations, reviewed the footage of the incident with TMO Joy Neville and assistants Karl Dickson and Chris Busby, and it was decided that the ball-carrying Bruno only merited a 10-minute stint in the sin bin, not missing nearly the entire second half at Stadio Olimpico.

Owens believed differently, though. Reviewing the incident on the latest episode of his Whistle Watch programme, he said: “A big talking point in Italy was the Bruno yellow card, should it have bene more?

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“Now then, this is what you can’t do as a player when you have the ball you cannot lead with this forearm up against the neck or the head area of a player. Sometimes what happens is this, when you have the ball in the other arm protecting yourself or protecting the ball, players go into the contact so the elbow or the arm will usually be down here and as they go in in a strong position they then push away.

“If they go in legally and then push away and the arm comes up pushing away, then we don’t have any foul play.

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“When you come in and the elbow is already up and you make contact with the neck or the head area then you are leading with a forearm, there is contact to the head, it is dangerous play and it should be a red card. In this instance here, it should have been a red card against Bruno for the elbow up contact to the next and head area.”

Owens also discussed two other incidents from that Six Nations match in Italy, the aerial collision between Liam Williams and Alessandro Fusco, and the decision not to award a penalty try after Owen Williams tackled Juan Ignacio Brex in an offside position.

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“One decision that was a grey area or a 50/50 was the Liam Williams contest in the air, should it have resulted in a yellow card or even a penalty? Well, maybe it should have, maybe it shouldn’t have. This is a really tricky one. It all depends on your interpretation on how you see it at the time and it’s exactly what the referee saw – it was a fair contest and play on,” reckoned Owens.

As for the incident involving Williams which left Kieran Crowley furious that a Six Nations penalty try wasn’t awarded to Italy, Owens said: “Should Owen Williams have been for being offside tackling and then a probable or possible penalty try? Well, a lot of people are getting confused here. When a tackle takes place there is an offside line so that players arriving must arrive from their own side, from their own goal side.

“So if the ball was still in the tackle area Williams must retreat and come in from his own side because the ball was deemed to be in the tackle area, it means he was offside making the tackle so there is an offence, there is a penalty.

“The next question is if he hadn’t done that would it lead to a try probably being scored and if they would have probably scored then it becomes a penalty try and a yellow card. But even if there was no penalty try it still could have meant that Williams would have had a yellow card if the referee felt that the actions were cynical.”

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