Relief for Francis as he is cleared to play over dangerous tackle
Piers Francis has been cleared to continue playing in the World Cup after his citing for making a dangerous tackle on United States fullback Will Hooley was dismissed by a disciplinary hearing, which ruled it did not warrant a red card.
Francis had been at risk of receiving a three-match suspension, which would have all but ended his participation in the tournament, after the centre appeared to make contact with his shoulder to the chin of Hooley just seven seconds into England’s 45-7 victory. The citing came three days after World Rugby had criticised its match officials for failing rigorously to enforce a crackdown on high and dangerous tackles in the first week of the tournament.
At the disciplinary hearing in Tokyo yesterday, Francis admitted the tackle was dangerous but insisted it warranted only being sent to the sin-bin, and the committee agreed.
“Having considered all the angles of the incident, together with evidence from the player and submissions from his legal counsel, the panel determined that the act ought to have resulted in a yellow card onfield,” a World Rugby statement read.
“Since the threshold for upholding a citing is red card, the committee did not uphold the citing and the player is free to play again immediately.”
Mitigating factors such as Hooley’s sudden change in height before contact and Francis’s attempt to change his own height shaped the decision.
It means the centre is free to play in the pool match against Argentina on Saturday, although as a fringe player he is unlikely to be involved.
Meanwhile, England’s hopes of qualifying for the last eight could be given a boost after it emerged that France’s match against the US in Fukuoka on Wednesday is under threat from a typhoon. World Rugby said both teams had been informed of contingency plans if it does not go ahead.
In the event of a cancellation, tournament regulations would mean the result is classified as a 0-0 draw, and France would miss the opportunity of a five-point haul from a bonus-point win and receive only two points, handing a significant advantage to England.
Yellow card only: Piers Francis’s tackle on Will Hooley did not merit dismissal