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'We just don't want to see these red cards': Clive Woodward weighs in on Steward's red

By Kim Ekin
Freddie Steward of England leaves the field after receiving a red card from Referee Jaco Peyper ( not pictured ) during the Six Nations Rugby match between Ireland and England at Aviva Stadium on March 18, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Sir Clive Woodward has been left impressed with England’s turnaround after being left ‘in shock’ last week and has offered his take on the red card issued to English fullback Freddie Steward.


The former England coach said there were no doubts about Ireland as the championship’s best team after their 29-16 win to secure a Grand Slam, but was swelling with pride over England’s resurgent effort despite being down to 14 men for the second half.

He credited Owen Farrell, who replaced Marcus Smith in the starting side after last week’s record loss to France, with guiding the team and bringing some on-field leadership to provide some grit.

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“The best team won today and the best team won the championship, so huge congratulations to Ireland and especially to Johnny Sexton,” Woodward said on ITV’s post-game panel show.

“It is a big year for them to nail that, which was fantastic.

“I’ve got to say this time last week I was in shock, but this time today I am very proud of that England team, they really put it to the Irish team. Farrell especially, really impressed me.

“Owen Farrell took the team back to where we know what we can actually do.


“You can win games, you can lose games, but that was a big performance from him today.”

England silenced a raucous Dublin crow with an early 6-0 lead as Ireland showed jitters in the early stages, taking a while to calm the nerves and get into the game.

After a Sexton penalty goal, a set-piece try to hooker Dan Sheehan ignited the home crowd as Ireland took back the lead at 10-6.

However the game’s biggest turning point occurred right on half-time as Freddie Steward clattered into his Irish opposite number Hugo Keenan trying to shield himself from the collision.


Both players were chasing a bouncing ball from an Ireland kick but Keenan won the race.

Steward’s challenge was deemed reckless with no mitigating factors, resulting in a red card that drastically tipped the match in Ireland’s favour despite a strong showing from the visitors.

Woodward said the call by Jaco Peyper was not clear cut, but stopped short of claiming it changed the end result of the game.

“They lost two players, the red card was arguable, the yellow card again was arguable,” he said referring also to Jack Willis’ 75th minute sin bin.

“I think it was a tough call but did it change the game, no not really to be honest.

“England were always going to be competitive but I don’t think it would have changed the result.”

The 2003 World Cup-winning coach also had a wider take on the games rules, claiming that red cards shouldn’t be used when there is any doubt lingering about the severity of the sanction. Particularly in big games with the Rugby World Cup approaching.

“When you come to these big knock-out games, we just don’t want to see these red cards unless it’s a clear, “get him off”, but anyway well done to Ireland and to England as well.

Former England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson said that despite the red card we saw a performance from England that can be the starting block of a quick rebuild under new head coach Steve Borthwick.

“There is so much more to the guys out there, you saw they look more like themselves,” Wilkinson told the ITV panel.

“Contact area they were strong, defensively they were strong, and even with 14 men they didn’t go away.

“When you’ve got 14 men, everyone has got to share they extra man to work and things like ill discipline here and there can really hurt.

“The guy are going to tire out and then at the end there Ireland played it beautifully coming back down that shortside where England were left with big heavy forwards against some fast backs.

“I think for me, the takeaway from that game is there have been some open conversations this week, some honesty, some really deep honesty and that may have relieved a little bit.

“As those shackles have come off, more of the players are coming out. Why not? If they can build on that, you can something really special come quickly.

“You can go from being 50 points down against France to being right there with the best in the tournament.”



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