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11th Jan 2023

Owen Farrell cleared to play in Six Nations despite ban

Patrick McCarry

Owen Farrell

The England captain will be able to play Scotland in early February.

The unholy mess surrounding rugby’s citing and disciplinary process has, once again, been exposed for what it is. Owen Farrell has been proven to have made a “reckless” and dangerous tackle to the head of an opponent but is clear to start the Six Nations.

Last weekend, Farrell went shoulder first – attempting no wrap – on Gloucester’s Jack Clement during a Premiership encounter. Due to a mix-up between referee Karl Dickson and Claire Hodnett, the Television Match Official, the incident was not reviewed during the game.

While Clement was able to play on, after the high shot, Farrell staying on the pitch and clinching the game for Saracens with a drop goal will have been galling for Gloucester.

Farrell was cited, though, and faced a disciplinary panel on Tuesday. The decision arrived on Wednesday morning and Farrell, who was found to have been guilty of a reckless tackle, has been banned for three club games. It would have been four – another club game (even though he is set to be in the England squad) – but Farrell has agreed to attend a course on improving his tackle technique.

Sure enough, this is what many predicted when footage was widely circulated of the incident. The England captain will not miss the start of his country’s 2023 Six Nations campaign.

Owen Farrell and ‘independent panel’ on the incident

The RFU has released a full summary of the process that has led to Owen Farrell missing what will, ultimately, be three club games and not a minute for England, despite this being the third time he has been cited in his career for a reckless tackle.

Indeed, the panel reasoned that one bad tackle, back in 2016, should not be considered as it happened too far back to see him listed as a repeat offender.

As you will note (below), Owen Farrell felt he only made “fleeting” contact with the chin of Jack Clement. His good conduct at the hearing and a reference from his coach, Mark McCall went in his favour, as did Farrell calling the player to apologise.

At this stage, every single rugby player knows that if you have those three things going for you, it will take a chunk off any ban. The system can be gamed effectively.


The Player told the Panel that he had played approximated 340 professional games. In regard to the tackle he acknowledged it was his responsibility to tackle safely. He said 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 believes 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. 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. 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 in the rest of the game.

Owen Farrell


Here are some of the factors that led to the three-game ban for Owen Farrell:

  • 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
  • Effect on victim: The opposition player continued in the game and is reported to have been uninjured by the incident.
  • Reasons for 6-week/game ban: The Panel did not conclude the features of the offending warranted a Top-end entry point and in the circumstances of this offending where contact is made with the head the regulations require at least a mid-range entry point.
  • Owen Farrell disciplinary record: The Player has only one relevant matter on his record from September 2020. Predominantly due to its age the Panel consider it appropriate to disregard a matter from 2016.
  • Owen Farrell conduct at hearing: The Player’s conduct was exemplary
  • Other off-field mitigation: The Player provided an exemplary reference from Mark McCall. The Player contacted his opponent to apologise.
  • Reason to reduce ban from 6 weeks/games: Given the Player’s previous offending he is not eligible to receive the 50% reduction for mitigation which would otherwise be available to him. However given the Player’s timely acknowledgment of his offending and considering his behaviour following the incident, during the hearing and leading up to the hearing, sitting alongside other mitigation available to him the Panel does feel able to reduce the sanction by a period of 2 weeks.

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