Don’t give Owen Farrell the David Beckham treatment after red card, says Kevin Sinfield

Owen Farrell’s red card against Wales has been overturned with fly-half cleared to play for England at World Cup; defence coach Kevin Sinfield says criticism Farrell receives is “far greater than anyone else”; England begin World Cup campaign against Argentina on September 9

        Don't give Owen Farrell the David Beckham treatment after red card, says Kevin Sinfield

England captain Owen Farrell receives greater criticism that anyone else, says defence coach Kevin Sinfield

England defence coach Kevin Sinfield hopes Owen Farrell is not subjected to the treatment David Beckham received at the 1998 Football World Cup in the wake of his overturned red card.

Farrell’s sending-off against Wales on Saturday was rescinded in a shock disciplinary verdict and he will now be free to feature against Ireland on Saturday and in England’s World Cup campaign, which begins against Argentina in Marseille on September 9.

Sinfield believes the criticism Farrell has received since last weekend’s tackle is more intense because of his status as captain and drew similarities to 25 years ago when Beckham experienced a backlash after kicking Argentina’s Diego Simeone.

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Sinfield said: “Owen’s England captain and he understands that it’s part of the territory. In any sport, if you’re England captain the noise and the heat, the magnitude of it is bigger than if it were anyone else.

“I’ll go back a long, long time to the 1998 World Cup when Beckham gets sent off. If it had been any other player, it probably wouldn’t have been the same.

        Don't give Owen Farrell the David Beckham treatment after red card, says Kevin Sinfield

David Beckham was sent off for England against Argentina in the 1998 Football World Cup

“I’m not suggesting that Owen is like Beckham at all. I don’t even think that Beckham was England captain at that time. But there are certain players who get a lot of heat.

‘Farrell receives greater heat than anyone else’

“I don’t think Owen overly puts himself out there. He’s a really good guy who wants to get better and wants to help the team. I understand some of the noise. Some of it I don’t get.

“You guys have tried to hang him when it’s one poorly-timed tackle. We need to get some balance to this. If it’s Owen I think the heat that is generated is far greater than if it was anyone else.”

Farrell was banned as recently as January for a high tackle on Gloucester’s Jack Clement and was also suspended in 2016 and 2020 for the same offence but Sinfield insists those challenges are anomalies.

        Don't give Owen Farrell the David Beckham treatment after red card, says Kevin Sinfield

Farrell’s red card against Wales was overturned after a disciplinary review

He added: “I know how hard Owen is working on his tackle technique and I know what he’s done through the Six Nations, and with Saracens.

“This is a guy who wants to improve and get better. He’s made one mistake. Players are human.

“Owen has worked incredibly hard. Since our last incident, he’s probably been involved in about 2,000 tackles. I’ve overseen the vast majority of them as he’s been with us. He’s been exceptional.

“Referees get things wrong, we all get things wrong in this room, we know that, and Owen is human.

“It may happen again and if it does I would ask that it is judged fairly. This is probably one in 2,000 tackles he has got wrong.”

Why is the decision a shock?

Farrell has previous in this area, and for that reason, he was set to receive no mitigation for the sanction handed out, in what many thought would be his fourth ban for a high tackle.

He also could not shave off a week if he received a ban as he did earlier this year by undertaking World Rugby’s tackle school programme.

In January, he received a four-game ban after his shoulder made contact with the head of Gloucester replacement Jack Clement, which was reduced to three.

In 2016 Farrell was suspended for two games for an illegal challenge on Wasps’ Dan Robson during a Champions Cup semi-final, while in 2020 he was banned for five games for a high tackle on Wasps player Charlie Atkinson – a sanction which was reduced from 10 weeks on account of off-field mitigating factors.

Farrell also avoided a citing in November 2018 for a shoulder charge high to the chest of South Africa centre Andre Esterhuizen while playing for England, as the offence was deemed worthy of a yellow card and not red. Farrell avoided a sin-binning for the incident during the Test as England held on to win by a point, 12-11.

‘Decision makes a mockery of player welfare’

The decision to overturn the red card is sure to anger anti-concussion campaigners, among them former Wales international Alix Popham, who described it as a “shocking challenge”.

Progressive Rugby, which campaigns for better protection of rugby union players, issued a statement condemning the decision.

“Today’s astounding decision to overturn the red card given to Owen Farrell for his tackle on Taine Basham has made a mockery of World Rugby’s claim that player welfare is the game’s number one priority,” the statement read.

“Additionally, despite protestations in the judgement to the contrary, it has critically undermined the newly introduced bunker process before a global tournament and eroded confidence in the game’s judicial process which is meant to help protect those playing the game.”