Rugby World Cup: Scott Barrett needs to be careful despite avoiding suspension, warns referee Ben O'Keeffe

After escaping further sanction for his red card against South Africa last weekend, All Blacks lock Scott Barrett is being urged to take extra caution, once the Rugby World Cup begins next month.

Barrett, 29, was shown two yellow cards during the All Blacks' record loss. The first was for repeat infringements by his team, while the second was for a dangerous cleanout on South African hooker Malcolm Marx.

Overnight, Barrett fronted an independent World Rugby judiciary panel at which he was spared further punishment, after the panel determined two yellows were sufficient.

Scott Barrett against South Africa.
Scott Barrett against South Africa. Photo credit: Getty Images

The decision leaves the All Blacks breathing a collective sigh of relief. 

Had Barrett been banned for the World Cup's opening game on September 9, Sam Whitelock and Tupou Vaa'i would have been the only available locks for coach Ian Foster, with injured Brodie Retallick also unavailable.

While Barrett has escaped further sanction, other players have not been as lucky. England captain Owen Farrell will miss the start of the tournament, after he was red-carded against Wales, while teammate Billy Vunipola suffered the same fate against Ireland a week later.

Former All Black-turned Tonga midfielder George Moala was hit with a 10-week ban for a red card, which has since been downgraded to five weeks, but he will still likely miss the World Cup altogether.

Barrett has been warned by referee Ben O'Keeffe, as World Rugby cracks down on dangerous play in the lead-in to the global showpiece.

"As we've seen over the last few weeks, every player needs to be extra cautious," O'Keeffe told AM.

Scott Barrett shown a yellow card.
Scott Barrett shown a yellow card. Photo credit: Photosport

"We've had players being red-carded and have been sanctioned for 10 weeks, down to three and four, so people have been missing the World Cup. He needs to be careful, but every other player needs to be careful as well.

"We've seen his previous record - he's a very physical player, which is really good. Obviously, we're on the line with some of the decisions sometimes.

"He might have a history, but that history doesn't need to come into the discussion in this situation. They were never talking about a red card for the incident."

In the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Barrett was also shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Australia's Michael Hooper, with Saturday's dismissal making him the first All Black to be sent off twice.

Meanwhile, like players selected for the 20 teams going to France, O'Keeffe and fellow referees are now in their final preparations for the World Cup.

After the 2019 tournament's poolstage was marred by an increase in cards, O'Keeffe insists referees won't want to be trigger-happy in sending players from the field in France. 

"I'll meet all the referees next week," he said. "I hope we don't have a lot of red cards, I hope we don't have a lot of yellow cards that are happening in games.

"We want to see 15 on 15. We want to see the best players in the world playing at what I think is going to be an awesome World Cup."

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