Guinness Six Nations 2023 Rugby Coverage

Guinness Six Nations 2023: England Fullback Steward Has Red Card Overturned

Guinness Six Nations 2023: England Fullback Steward Has Red Card Overturned

An independent committee has rescinded the red card handed to England fullback Freddie Steward during England's 29 - 16 loss to Ireland in the Six Nations.

Mar 23, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Guinness Six Nations 2023: England Fullback Steward Has Red Card Overturned

Freddie Steward’s red card from England’s final round Guinness Six Nations clash with Ireland on Saturday has been rescinded by an independent disciplinary committee.

The England fullback was shown red for his collision with Irish counterpart Hugo Keenan. Appearing to brace for contact, his elbow made contact with Keenan’s head towards the end of the first half. 

Keenan failed a head injury assessment and therefore did not return for the remainder of the match. 

Ireland went on to win the clash 29 – 16 to secure a fourth-ever Grand Slam as England fell to a third loss and with it 4th position on the Championship table. 

Much debated at the time on social media, former international referee Nigel Owens warned that the ruling risks causing confusion throughout the game. On the flip side, several professional referees were divided on the decision. 

The independent committee reviewed all available evidence and heard from Steward via video link before making a decision. Concluding that the card should be rescinded, the committee amended the charge from 9.13, which reads: 

A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously. Dangerous tackling includes but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the shoulders, even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. 

To law 9.11, which reads: 

Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others, including leading with the elbow or forearm or jumping into or over a tackler. 

For his part, Steward denied he had committed an act of foul play, but the committee found that by the letter of the law, he had indeed been reckless. 

However, due to several mitigating factors, the commission ruled that the incident should have resulted in a yellow card. The factors listed included Steward’s upright position, Keenan’s change of positioning and the dynamics involved with the collision. 

Defending the decision of referee Jaco Peyper to send Steward off, the committee said: “The committee acknowledged that match officials are required to make decisions under pressure and in the heat of a live match environment.”

Written by Philip Bendon