Englands Freddie Steward is shown a red card by referee Jaco Peyper. (Photo by Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images)
South African referee Jaco Peyper was dragged into the firing line after sending off Englishman Freddie Steward in their 29-16 defeat to Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
The England fullback collided with Ireland’s Hugo Keenan, making head contact, which Peyper deemed a serious enough offence to warrant a red card shortly before half-time.
WRAP | Six Nations – final weekend
The match was in the balance at that stage, with Ireland leading 10-6 heading into the break. The bone of contention seemed to be Steward’s elbow making contact with his opposite number’s forehead, who went down immediately clutching his head.
The controversy comes in a week that’s seen World Rugby re-enforce its drive to make the game safer from head and neck injuries by advising its members to adopt lower tackle height limits at amateur level – a suggestion SA Rugby is discussing.
But some former players took a dim view of the Steward red card, which to some looked like accidental contact.
England World Cup winner Jason Robinson said the red card was “absolutely ridiculous … a yellow card at best.”
Former England captain Will Carling said: “Steward had a split second to react – after a knock-on – to a man running at him. There was no intent – he was protecting himself. What a joke.”
England captain Owen Farrell was perplexed by Steward’s red card.
“I was surprised (it was a red card), if I’m honest,” he said.
“But it’s not up to us. We don’t make the rules. The way that we reacted after we got that red card was very good. I thought we fought for each other.”
Anyone trying to defend that red card decision at the half time break is just trying to look after them selves
— Ben Stokes (@benstokes38) March 18, 2023
Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. In fact it’s complete and utter bollocks.
— Joe Marler (@JoeMarler) March 18, 2023
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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