England captain Owen Farrell has been suspended for five games after accepting the charge of making a dangerous tackle on Wasps’ Charlie Atkinson.
The incident occurred during the 61st minute of Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership round 18 clash at Allianz Park when Farrell, chasing his own high kick, saw his swinging left arm connect with the head of Wasps’ 18-year-old substitute.
Atkinson, a first-year Wasps academy player just eight minutes into his second senior appearance, was knocked unconscious and was replaced. Jimmy Gopperth kicked the subsequent penalty as Wasps moved ahead on their way to a 28-18 victory.
Farrell attended an online disciplinary hearing this evening and below is the statement provided by the RFU.
Owen Farrell of Saracens appeared before an online independent disciplinary panel this evening (Tuesday 8 September 2020).
Farrell was shown a red card by referee Christophe Ridley in the 61st minute of the match between Saracens and Wasps on Saturday 5 September 2020. This was for a dangerous tackle on Wasps’ Charlie Atkinson, contrary to World Rugby Law 9.13.
Farrell accepted the charge and was given a five match suspension by the independent panel comprising Mike Hamlin (chair) with Gareth Graham and Leon Lloyd.
Independent panel chair Mike Hamlin said: “It was accepted by the RFU, the player and the Panel that the offending was reckless and not intentional. This was a totally unacceptable contact with the neck/head of Charlie Atkinson as a result of a reckless tackle which had the consequences of him being knocked unconscious and sustaining a concussion. This resulted in the Panel concluding that this was a top end offence with an entry point of ten matches. There were no aggravating features.
“Testimonials provided by Mark McCall, Eddie Jones and the founders of a charity with which the player works very closely were of the highest quality. The Panel concluded that applying the off-field mitigating factors, notwithstanding his suspension four and a half years ago, the player was entitled to a reduction from ten matches to five meaningful matches under RFU regulation 19.11.11. The player is free to play again on 5 October.”
‘Left him at home’
Wasps head coach Lee Blackett gave an update on Atkinson’s condition during his Tuesday media session in the build-up to Wednesday’s match against Leicester Tigers.
He said: “He won’t be doing anything for a couple of weeks.
“We look after these younger guys especially with a pretty tough head knock. I’ve had a couple of text messages in the last couple of days. He’s not been in so we’ve left him at home. The couple of text messages I’ve had with him, everything seems alright.”
Blackett added: “Normally with players they’d have to go through a six-day process and gradually build back, showing no symptoms and their training volume would get more each day,” he said. “Whereas with Charlie, cause he’s only 18 it’s completely different.
“He must go through a longer process. I think it’s the right thing to do for these kids, the younger guys so yeah, Charlie’s is just because of his age more than anything else.”
‘Clearly got it wrong’
Speaking immediately after Saturday’s game, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: “He said: “I watched it live but have not watched it on the video. He was chasing his own kick and was desperate to make a tackle and clearly got it wrong and he got his red card.
“It is what it is. He could easily have been out of the Leinster came for another reason – injury or whatever. He missed the last quarter-final of the Champions Cup because his wife was having their first child. We have got plenty of good backs at the club so we will just rearrange our back line a little bit and get on with it.
“He works really hard on all parts of game and he has improved in that area. Today’s incident was a little bit different because he was chasing a kick and trying to make a difference to his team. We hope the player he hit is okay, I think he was, it is a real shame.”
McCall followed up those comments in Saracens’ midweek media session when he was resigned to not having Farrell for the Heineken Champions Cup clash with Leinster a week on Sunday.
He said: “I think we can safely assume that Owen won’t be available for that game and we will plan as such
“He will definitely be involved in helping that squad before the game.
“Obviously Owen got the tackle wrong, there is no question about that. You could see form his reaction as soon as it happened that he knew he got it wrong and he is incredibly regretful.
“He stood on the touchline and waited for Charlie to get up and come off and he was really concerned for him.”