England skipper Owen Farrell has received a five-match ban following the red card he was given for a high tackle while playing for Saracens last Saturday in the Gallagher Premiership, ruling him out of the London club’s September 19 Champions Cup quarter-final at Leinster and a possible semi-final the following week if they win.

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Farrell’s expulsion by referee Christophe Ridley came for his illegal high tackle on Wasps’ Charlie Atkinson in the 61st minute at Allianz Park, fuelling further debate about the general legality of the player’s tackling style.

Such was the gravity of the red card offence that the online independent disciplinary panel that heard the Farrell case on Tuesday night decided the entry point for the suspension was ten matches, a sanction that would have impacted on Farrell’s available for England in late October.

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Former Scotland international player and coach Ian McGeechan talks about the British and Irish Lions

However, this suggested penalty was subsequently halved to five, leaving Farrell, who had accepted the dangerous tackle charge contrary to World Rugby Law 9.13, free to play again on October 5.

The independent panel comprised Mike Hamlin (chair) with Gareth Graham and Leon Lloyd and in handing down the suspension, Hamlin said: “It was accepted by the RFU, the player and the panel that the offending was reckless and not intentional.

“This was a totally unacceptable contact with the neck/head of Charlie Atkinson as a result of a reckless tackle which had the consequences of him being knocked unconscious and sustaining a concussion.

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“This resulted in the panel concluding that this was a top-end offence with an entry point of ten matches. There were no aggravating features.

“Testimonials provided by Mark McCall, Eddie Jones and the founders of a charity with which the player works very closely were of the highest quality.

“The panel concluded that applying the off-field mitigating factors, notwithstanding his suspension four and a half years ago, the player was entitled to a reduction from ten matches to five meaningful matches under RFU regulation 19.11.11. The player is free to play again on October 5.”

Saracens’ league trip to Sale on Wednesday night, followed by Sunday’s home game versus leaders Exeter, will count as the first two games of Farrell’s ban, with the European match versus Leinster game No3. Matches at Worcester and at home to Bath will also be missed unless Saracens progress in Europe.

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