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”
Last Updated: 08/09/20 11:54pm
Owen Farrell will miss Saracens’ Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster after being given a five-game ban for a dangerous tackle on Waspsâ€™ Charlie Atkinson.
The England captain, 28, faced an online disciplinary hearing on Tuesday night to answer for the first red card of his career after being sent off on the hour mark of the Gallagher Premiership defeat at Allianz Park.
Farrell was dismissed for a high and reckless tackle on 18-year-old replacement full-back Atkinson, who was knocked out and will not train for at last two weeks because of concussion protocols.
Farrell had accepted the charge and 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 10 matches to five meaningful matches under RFU regulation 19.11.11. The player is free to play again on October 5.”
The ban rules him out of Saracens’ most important game of the season against Leinster on September 19 with Europe their only prospect of winning silverware following their relegation from the Premiership for repeated salary cap breaches.
If the double winners pull off a shock by prevailing in Dublin, they will be missing their talisman for the semi-final a week later after he was told he can only resume playing from October 5.
‘Farrell is physical but didn’t mean it’
Speaking after the game on Saturday, Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall admitted Farrell “got it wrong” and insists his side will cope without their star man.
“It is what it is,” McCall said. “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.”
Reflecting on the incident, Wasps head coach Lee Blackett said: “You know Owen, he is physical but he didn’t mean it.
“You could see instantly afterwards and unfortunately Owen got that one wrong.
“We know Owen is not that type of player – he plays on the edge but genuinely never goes over that edge. He got that slightly wrong.”
Farrell ban the latest bitter blow for Saracens
Sky Sports News’ James Cole:
Owen Farrell’s five-game ban may be good news for England but it is terrible news for Saracens.
The Premiership champions have endured an ‘annus horribilis’ – and it shows no sign of ending. Farrell will be unavailable for their Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster; their last chance of silverware before they’re relegated to the Championship for breaching the salary cap.
Alex Goode or Manu Vunipola will start at 10 on September 19. The Irish province will now be firm favourites.
There is however another issue in play here – Farrell’s tackle-technique.
The red card he received last weekend has been threatening for some time. He often aims high and with a swinging arm, trying to dislodge the ball from his opponent. Often it is brilliant. But sometimes it is reckless.
With World Rugby looking to eradicate high tackles, Farrell is leaving himself liable to split-second misjudgements and disciplinary-hearing judgements. Perhaps England coach Eddie Jones will look to address this sooner rather than later.