A World Rugby appointed judicial committee has cancelled the red card sanction issued to French fullback Benjamin Fall during his team’s 26 – 13 loss to the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday night.
Fall was shown a red card by referee Angus Gardner (Australia) in the 11th minute of the first half of the second Test match played between New Zealand and France on Saturday at Westpac Stadium.
The Montpellier No15 was ordered off the field under Law 9.17 for tackling, charging, pulling, pushing or grasping an opponent whose feet were off the ground.
In accordance with World Rugby’s disciplinary process, Fall’s red card hearing was heard by an Independent Judicial Committee comprising Adam Casselden SC (Chairman), David Croft (Ex-Australian and Queensland Reds player) and John Langford (Ex-Australian, ACT Brumbies and Munster player).
Having conducted a detailed review of all the evidence available, including all video footage and additional evidence from the player and submissions from his legal representative Aaron Lloyd, the Independent Judicial Committee dismissed the red card issued by the referee.
The Independent Judicial Committee said in their report:
“As demonstrated in the video footage, the Player (Fall), at all times, had his eyes on the ball whilst it was in the air, which showed, in our opinion, a clear intention, on the part of the Player, that he intended to contest it.
“From the moment the ball leaves France #10’s (Anthony Belleau) boot Fall is observed running a line at pace to a position which he believes will put him in the best possible position to catch it.
“The line that the Player is running is then altered by his collision with NZ #13 (Anton Lienert-Brown). This collision then causes Fall to lose his balance, stumble and be propelled or pushed towards the path of NZ #10 (Beauden Barrett).
“By reason of those matters Fall’s attempt to contest the ball was compromised. In our opinion, the direct and proximate cause for that outcome was the result of the Player’s collision with NZ #13 (Lienert-Brown).
Does the push from Lienert-Brown have an impact on Fall timing his jump?— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) June 16, 2018
“As a result of his collision with NZ #13 (Lienert-Brown) Fall was denied the time (less than one second) and the space to put himself in a position to avoid a collision with NZ #10 (Barrett) or to contest the ball as he had initially planned.
“Whilst it is unfortunate that NZ #10 (Barrett) sustained a concussion after landing on his head, was removed from the match and is unlikely to be available for the third Test match we did not consider that the Player’s actions, in the circumstances of this case, were deliberate or reckless.
“In our opinion, as supported by all the video footage, the Player’s actions were accidental as they were brought about by his collision with NZ #13 (Lienert-Brown), the effect of which changed his initial running line thereby pushing him towards NZ #10 (Barrett).
“We did not consider that the Player would have foreseen the events, which ultimately unfolded, and therefore could not have, in our opinion, given the speed of the events and the dynamics at play, taken any preventative steps to avoid the collision with NZ #10 (Barrett) or to have put himself in a position to contest the ball as he had initially planned.
“Therefore, having regard to the totality of the evidence, the Judicial Committee was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the referee’s decision to issue the red card was wrong.”
So if Anton Lienert-Brown pushes Fall, who as a result clatters Beauden Barrett so that he lands on his head, shouldn't ALB as the instigator have seen red? Je dis ça, je dis rien!#NZLvFRA pic.twitter.com/BdRTuBrzk1— Paul Eddison (@pauleddison) June 16, 2018
The Judicial Committee was careful to point out the decision was in no way a criticism of the referee or other match officials:
“In reaching that conclusion, it is important to record, that no criticism is made of the referee nor, in our opinion, would any be warranted.”
“Unlike the referee we had the benefit of all the video footage, which showed various angles of the incident.
“Unlike the referee we had the luxury of time to deliberate and consider, in private, the incident.
“In contrast, the referee was required to make his decision in a matter of minutes in the full gaze of the public and without the benefit of all the relevant material.
“Accordingly, the red card is dismissed and the Player is free to resume playing rugby immediately. We direct World Rugby to expunge the Ordering Off (red card) from the Player’s disciplinary record.”
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