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RFU statement: The Jack Nowell misconduct charge verdict

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Exeter winger Jack Nowell has been heavily fined for a message he posted to Twitter last weekend about an incident in his team’s Gallagher Premiership defeat at Leicester. He has escaped a ban, though, freeing him to play for the Chiefs in their upcoming Heineken Champions Cup semi-final in France versus La Rochelle.

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After seeing referee Karl Dickson adjudge Olly Woodburn to have committed a yellow card offence when he slid into Chris Ashton after the Leicester player dived for the try line while tackled by Stuart Hogg, Nowell and two Chiefs teammates who were also not involved in the game – fellow England internationals Luke Cowan-Dickie and Henry Sladevented their feelings when a penalty try was awarded and Woodburn was sent off for a second yellow card.

Cowan-Dickie tweeted that “rugby had lost the plot” and Slade said “I have no words”, while Nowell added in a since-deleted tweet: “I’m actually in shock, like shock shocked. What the hell is happening? That’s one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen. EVER”.

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English Rugby HQ took umbrage over what Nowell posted to his 61,000-plus followers and he has now had his case heard following a charge of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union and the game under RFU rule 5.12. The outcome was a £10,000 fine to be paid to charity and a direction for Nowell to undertake a referees course.

A statement read: “On April 19, Jack Nowell appeared before an independent disciplinary panel charged with committing conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game with the tweet he posted during the match between Leicester and Exeter on Sunday. The panel was chaired by Matthew O’Grady joined by Martyn Wood and Guy Lovgreen.

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“Nowell accepted his conduct was prejudicial to the interests of the game and he was fined £10,000 and directed to undertake a referees’ course. The panel directed the fine be paid to charity. Further information of the sanction imposed by the panel will be detailed in the panel’s written judgment which will be available shortly.

“World Rugby have confirmed that professional match official, Karl Dickson, correctly applied the law during the game which saw the penalty try and a yellow card awarded. Law 13.4 is clear that players cannot fall on or over players on the ground and tackle law 14.8 says arriving players at a tackle must come from the direction of their own goal line and stay on their feet.”

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Panel chair O’Grady said: “Debate about on-field decisions by players and officials is an inevitable part of rugby union and professional rugby players have the right to express themselves about the sport they play.

“However, they are not free from the consequences of such expression when it breaches their professional obligation not to act prejudicially to the interests of the game by disrespecting match officials, their decisions and their authority – not least when that expression contributes to a ‘pile on’ of public comment about a match official or match officials.

“Respect for match officials – even if we disagree with their decisions, indeed especially if we disagree with their decisions – is a core part of rugby union. It is not a value that we can turn on and off when we choose.

“Nowell accepted his tweet, which was viewed many hundreds of thousands of times, was not fair comment and crossed the line of what is acceptable by a person with his considerable status in the game.”

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Elsewhere on the disciplinary front in England, Saracens centre Duncan Taylor will be available for the Premiership semi-finals on May 13 after receiving a ban that can be reduced to two games if he completes tackle school.

Taylor was sent off for a dangerous challenge in the eighth minute of Saturday’s 38-29 defeat by Northampton and is unavailable for the last two fixtures of the regular season against London Irish and Bath.

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