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The Ireland verdict on Atonio yellow and Beirne's worrying injury

By Liam Heagney
Referee Wayne Barnes reviews the Uini Atonio tackle on the big screen (Photo by Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Ireland boss Andy Farrell has given his verdict on the yellow-carded tackle from French prop Uini Atonio that left Rob Herring unable to continue beyond the 26th minute of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations match. He also provided a concerning update on the early second-half injury suffered by Tadhg Beirne.

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The round two match between World Rugby’s No1 ranked side and the defending Gland Slam champions, which Ireland won 32-19, encountered a huge talking point when the shoulder of tighthead Atonio crashed into the ball-carrying Herring, who suffered a gruesome whiplash reaction to the head-high impact.

Referee Wayne Barnes reviewed the footage with his team of officials and the outcome was only to give Atonio a yellow card rather than brandish the red. Ireland soon took advantage of the French temporarily being a man short, quickly scoring a try from Andrew Porter to move into a lead they never relinquished.

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However, if the 2023 Six Nations title favourites had failed to go on and clinch the victory, the absence of a red card for Atonio would surely have been more of a heated debate than it was when Farrell gave his post-match verdict from the comforting position that his team had won the game.

“Rob didn’t come back on so there is that to factor in but at the same time, it is what it is,” said Farrell when asked if the French front-rower should have seen red for the high tackle.

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“The referees are paid to make those decisions. Wayne and his team of four, they couldn’t get any closer to the big screen to see it as it was. You have got to trust that call and obviously, they will look at it and do the right there therefore after that.”

Herring wasn’t the only Ireland player who exited the contest injured as Beirne and skipper Johnny Sexton also had their contributions curtailed early in the second half. With regards to Beirne, who hobbled down the tunnel in the 45th minute with his damaged ankle, Farrell said: “Not looking too great at the moment of time. There is something that needs to be looked at in more detail but it’s not looking great for him at this moment of time. We will see tomorrow.”

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As for Sexton, who followed Beirne off some minutes later but watched the remainder of the match animately from the sideline, the captain said: “Atonio tackled me and landed on my groin. It’s another impact but I couldn’t run it off, I was gutted to come off.

“I was enjoying it, felt good. Your first game back is always difficult and the second one, you are always much better for it. I felt on top of the ground but that’s life. I’ve just got to look after it now and make sure I am getting myself back fit (for the February 25 game away to Italy).”

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