Owen Farrell to miss two World Cup matches after appeal results in ban

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Owen Farrell will miss England’s crucial Rugby World Cup pool matches against Argentina and Japan after being handed a four-match suspension.

Farrell’s sending off against Wales at Twickenham was initially downgraded to a yellow card offence by a disciplinary panel last Tuesday.

But World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, elected to appeal that decision, with an appeal committee formed.

That panel has now overturned last week’s disciplinary decision and levied a suspension, Farrell’s second of the year and a fourth in the England captain’s career.

It rules the fly half out of England’s last warm-up game against Fiji on Saturday, while last weekend’s visit to Ireland, from which Farrell was voluntarily stood down, is also encompassed within the four-match ban.

The 31-year-old will therefore miss only the first two matches in France, and will become available for their third pool fixture against Chile.

He will, however, miss the encounters with England’s likeliest rivals for a quarter-final place, with Steve Borthwick’s side opening their tournament against Argentina in Marseille on 9 September before a meeting with Japan in Nice eight days later.

The appeal committee found that the original panel failed to consider whether Farrell had attempted to wrap in the tackle, concluding that he had not, and thus was deemed “always illegal”.

That meant that he was not entitled to the mitigation that dropped the offence below the red card threshold, resulting in the ban, reduced by two weeks from a six-match entry point.

A statement from the Six Nations, who operate the Summer Nations Series, said: “The Appeal Committee therefore considered that the Disciplinary Committee’s decision to downgrade the red card to a yellow card had been manifestly wrong, which led to the Disciplinary Committee’s decision being overturned, the appeal brought by World Rugby being allowed, and the red card upheld.

“In considering sanction, the Committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point for foul play resulting in contact with the head (six-matches). Taking all considerations into account, including the player’s acceptance of foul play, clear demonstration of remorse and his good character, the Committee agreed a four-match suspension.”

The ban could be followed by more bad news for Borthwick, with the outcome of Billy Vunipola’s disciplinary hearing after his red card against Ireland expected to be announced on Wednesday morning.

England take on Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday in their final match before heading to their World Cup training base in Le Touquet.

The length of Farrell’s ban means Borthwick is highly unlikely to replace him in his 33-man squad, with George Ford and Marcus Smith both also included as specialist fly half options.