Rugby World Cup: England captain Owen Farrell escapes suspension after red card against Wales

Owen Farrell has avoided suspension after his red card in England's 19-17 win over Wales was surprisingly overturned, after a hearing ruled that a late change of direction by the ball carrier contributed to the high contact.

Farrell was sent off - an initial yellow card upgraded to red via the new review system - after smashing his shoulder into the face of Wales forward Taine Basham in the sort of no-arms tackle that earned him a four-game ban earlier this season when playing for Saracens.

He was widely expected to get at least another four-game suspension, ruling him out of England's two remaining warm-ups against Ireland and Fiji and their first two World Cup pool games against Argentina and Japan.

Owen Farrell's yellow card was upgraded to red against Wales.
Owen Farrell's yellow card was upgraded to red against Wales. Photo credit: Getty Images

However, Farrell argued that the offence was worthy of only a yellow card and the independent judicial committee agreed.

"After reviewing all the evidence... the committee concluded that the Foul Play Review Officer was wrong, on the balance of probabilities, to upgrade the yellow card issued to the player to a red card," the committee said in a statement.

"The Committee found that a late change in dynamics due to England number two's interaction in the contact area brought about a sudden and significant change in direction from the ball carrier. In the Committee's opinion, this mitigation was sufficient to bring the player's act of foul play below the red car threshold.

"The committee believe it is important to record that no criticism is made of the Foul Play Review Officer nor would any be warranted.  Unlike the Foul Play Review Officer the committee had the luxury of time to deliberate and consider, in private, the incident."

The "bunker review" system has been recently introduced to try to avoid red cards for dangerous-looking incidents that, on closer video inspection, are deemed not worthy of such a punishment.

Referees can now issue a yellow card and a TMO has 10 minutes to decide whether to upgrade it to a red or allow the player to return to the action.

Basham was forced to leave the field with concussion and now faces his own battle to be passed fit to play in the World Cup.