The much anticipated disciplinary panel of the England captain has laid down the punishment. It sees Owen Farrell banned for five games. This rules him out of the Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster.
Owen Farrell appeared before an online independent disciplinary panel this evening and has been handed a five-match suspension.
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) September 8, 2020
Owen Farrell banned for five games
The incident occurred in Saracens’ defeat to Wasps on Saturday 5th September. Former player Andy Goode called it “the worst kind of tackle that World Rugby are trying to get rid of” on The Rugby Pod this week. Many others were not as kind as that.
Farrell’s case, at least to the media and supporters, was not helped by Atkinson’s age and career position. As he is only 18 years old, he will not train for at least a fortnight due to concussion protocols, which may well rule him out for the rest of the season.
How did the panel reach their decision?
Farrell’s case was assessed against RFU Regulation 19, which states up front that “any act of foul play which results in contact with the head and/or neck shall result in at least a mid-range sanction”. This meant the minimum sanction was a six week ban; this currently translates to six weeks because of the current exceptional circumstances.
The top end sanction for “Punching or striking with hand or arm” is listed at 10+ weeks, up to a maximum of 52 weeks. Farrell was initially given 10 weeks, but this was mitigated down to five. So ironically then, he has received less than the minimum stated sanction. He is free to play again from the 5th October.
Consequences for Saracens and England
Even had this incident not happened, Farrell was unlikely to play against Sale Sharks on Wednesday. He will now miss Saracens’ remaining Premiership games. But the most significant is that he will miss the Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster. Given this was the only match Saracens could actually gain anything from since the restart, this is a big blow. His club teammates may well pull off a win in Dublin and prolong his Saracens’ season, but Leinster’s record suggests that is still unlikely.
He will be available for England in the Six Nations and the Eight Nations tournament in October and November.
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