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Quickest red cards in rugby union history

By Jack Tunney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

With the game of rugby generating stronger and faster athletes every year, the game has had to adapt with stronger measures to ensure that player safety is put at the forefront. What this means is that we are seeing more and more sanctions and sending-offs than ever before.


When a player gets sent off it gives a clear advantage to the opposing team because it opens up space where it would not have been before. We are currently looking at a quicker game now than ever seen in the past, which means that with a player advantage that extra little bit of space can make all the difference.

If you look back at games from many years ago, you will see plenty of tackles that in today’s game simply would not be allowed. For example, it would not have been unheard of for players to stamp on the opposition in a ruck or figuratively take a player’s head off in a spine-tingling tackle and face no repercussions.

In today’s game, we hear the word ‘mitigation’ a lot, which can be the difference between a caution, a yellow card, and a red card. Mitigation is essentially working out if the resulting punishment can be reduced based on the circumstances that lead to the illegal act. For example, if a player were to connect around the neck during a tackle, the mitigation would be how intentional it was and what level of danger was determined.

Yellow cards are a lot more common than red cards since players are now better trained and instructed to keep to the letter of the law. A high tackle for example may be mitigated down to a yellow card if the tackled player was slipping during contact, or if the offending player showed no high level of danger within the tackle.

A red card however is distributed when a high level of danger is seen by the officials, with no other mitigating factors being present.
A red card can be damning for the affected side at any stage of the match, although, the earlier on in the game it is, the longer the handicap has to take effect. Take a look at the quickest-ever red cards in rugby union history.

Marika Korembeti – 4 minutes 27 seconds

After France had taken an early lead against Australia, Marika Korembeti decided to put in a statement hit on the opposition. Unfortunately for Kormembeti, his hit was misplaced as it was deemed that his shoulder made clear contact with the head of the opposition player.
Due to the high level of danger from Korembeti, as he charged from a distance and was always rising in the tackle, it was determined that there was no mitigation so a straight red card was given.

Jared Payne – 4 minutes 8 seconds

Jared Payne was chasing a high ball, attempting to get underneath it as he collided with the opposition player. Despite his captain insisting that he had his eyes on the ball, the referee made the decision to give a red card because of the high level of danger and the lack of care provided.

Charlie Ewels – 1 minute 22 seconds

A different challenge but the same outcome for Charlie Ewels on this occasion. A head-on-head collision saw no mitigating circumstances, causing the England player to leave the field just beyond the first minute.
Ireland went on to become deserved winners in this game, as they took advantage of England’s tired legs during the last quarter of the game.

Nick wood – 1 minute 12 seconds

The previous red cards could all be argued in part to be ‘accidental’ in nature, on this occasion however there was no excuse for Nick Wood in this reckless act. Even die-hard Gloucester fans would be hard-pressed to defend Wood’s actions as he stamped on the head of the Saracens player within the first minute.

Dan Evans – 37 seconds

One of the most bizarre red cards you are ever likely to see, Dan Evans catches the ball and raises his leg to protect himself in typical fullback fashion. What is out of the ordinary however is the extension of his leg, which causes his boot to fly into Teddy Thomas’s face. Evans saw red as his actions were determined to be ‘reckless’, in the quickest sending-off in rugby history.



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