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What Owen Farrell said at his hearing and how the judiciary reacted

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England talisman Owen Farrell has revealed that it was only on the Saracens team bus trip home from Gloucester last Friday night that he first realised that his shoulder has made contact with the chin of Jack Clement at Kingsholm.

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Footage of the late-game collision sparked a lively debate on BT Sport, who had broadcast the game live on UK television, but Farrell, who stayed on the pitch unsanctioned to land the match-winning drop goal with the final kick, wasn’t aware of the furore he tackle had ignited.

The written ten-page judgment issued on Wednesday following his Tuesday evening disciplinary hearing reported: “It was only when he got on the team bus to come home that he watched the clips and realised contact was made with the chin. When he realised he contacted his opponent to apologise.”

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Farrell was slapped with a four-game ban by the judicial committee but if selected by England next Monday when Steve Borthwick announces his Guinness Six Nations squad, the talisman out-half won’t miss any Test matches.

The disciplinary hearing verdict stipulated that Farrell could apply for the World Rugby coaching intervention programme which, if successfully completed, would scratch the final game of the four-match suspension.

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With Saracens having three matches scheduled over the coming weekends, tackle school would see the Farell suspension expire before the end of January and free him for England duty for the start of the Six Nations. The written judgment confirmed that Farrell is definitely applying for tackle school. “The player indicated his intention to apply to World Rugby to take part in the coaching intervention process. The panel agreed that he is eligible to take part.”

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Describing his view of his tackle on Clement, Farrell told the disciplinary hearing: “He was expecting his opponent to run over him so he dropped his height to where he felt the tackle would be properly executed. He hinged both at the hips and at the knees. He said in hindsight he would have liked to have been a couple of inches lower.

“He said a number of times that he felt he had made primary contact through the chest area and that he had made a fair tackle. He said he believed all his force went through the chest area. He said he thought it would have felt different had he put the force through the chin.

“He denied the suggestion made by the RFU that he had caused the chin to be pinned backwards by his contact. The player helpfully talked the panel through the footage and, as he did so, he explained why he felt the force went through the chest area rather than the chin.

“He felt that the contact with the chin was not significant. It was described as fleeting. He said his opponent continued to contest the ball following the tackle and then continued to play the rest of the game.”

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In its findings of fact, the judicial panel stated: “The panel accepts the player believed he had primarily struck his opponent’s chest. The footage, in our view, demonstrates he was wrong.”

It later added: “The panel saw no evidence that the player’s conduct in making contact with the head was intentional. It was a reckless act brought about by a misjudgment of the appropriate tackle height required in the circumstances.”

The foul tackle was given a six-week entry point and the full 50 per cent mitigation wasn’t applied in this instance. “Given the player’s previous offending, he is not eligible to receive the 50 per cent reduction for mitigation which would otherwise be available to him.

“The player has one previous matter on record from September 2020, for which he served a five-match ban for dangerous tackling, and another old matter which occurred in 2016. Given the date of the first matter, the panel concluded the player is not a repeat offender whose status warrants an increase in sanction for this reason.”

  • Click here to read the ten-page written judgment from the Owen Farrell disciplinary hearing

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