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England full-back Freddie Steward’s red card against Ireland is overturned after panel review

Freddie Steward’s red card against Ireland is OVERTURNED after the England full-back was controversially sent off for a collision with Hugo Keenan in Six Nations defeat

  • Steward was controversially dismissed in Dublin for colliding with Hugo Keenan
  • His sending off sparked major controversy, but is has now been rescinded
  • Rugby chiefs have concluded that a yellow card would have been more fitting 

Freddie Steward has had the red card he was given in England’s Six Nations finale with Ireland rescinded in a decision that could yet have significant ramifications on the way rugby is refereed. 

England and Leicester full-back Steward was sent off in Dublin after he collided with the head of his opposite number Hugo Keenan and was deemed to have made a dangerous tackle. In the wake of the game at the Aviva Stadium, it was widely acknowledged by rugby experts that Steward could have done little to get out of the way and avoid making contact with Keenan. 

Referee Jaco Peyper nonetheless sent him off, although a Six Nations disciplinary panel confirmed on Wednesday morning that the red card should have instead been a yellow. 

Steward will therefore not serve any ban and is free to play again immediately although his escape is too late for England as his dismissal in Ireland was one of the game’s key moments. 

With Steward off the field for the second half, England played with 14 men and then briefly went down to 13 when Jack Willis was sent to the sin bin. Steve Borthwick’s side went on to be beaten 29-16 by Ireland who sealed a Grand Slam. 

England full-back Freddie Steward’s red card against Ireland has reportedly been overturned 

Steward was controversially dismissed for a collision with Hugo Keenan just before half time

Steward was controversially dismissed for a collision with Hugo Keenan just before half time

A Six Nations statement read: ‘The player denied he had committed an act of foul play worthy of a red card. 

‘Having reviewed all the evidence, the committee decided there were sufficient mitigating factors including the late change in the dynamics and positioning of the opposing player which should have resulted in the issue of a yellow card rather than a red card.

‘On that basis, the committee did not uphold the red card and the player is free to play again immediately.’ 

Steward’s escaping of a ban is good news for Leicester because it means he will be available for the Tigers in their upcoming Premiership and European battles. But in a wider context, it raises questions over whether a player should always be sent off if they make contact with an opposition player’s head. 

That has increasingly become the norm as rugby looks to ensure it protects its players from the risks of concussion and serious brain injuries. But there is now a growing consensus that the way the game should be officiated should be less black and white and that there should be allowances for more mitigating factors.