Francis' hit went unpunished at the time. PA Wire/PA Images
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England's Francis avoids ban for high tackle on USA fullback

A disciplinary panel concluded that there were mitigating factors and Francis should not be banned.

ENGLAND CENTRE PIERS Francis has escaped a ban for a high tackle at the Rugby World Cup, avoiding the fate of four other players who were suspended for illegal hits.

A disciplinary panel found that Francis’s tackle on USA fullback Will Hooley, which went unpunished at the time, did not warrant a red card and so did not deserve a ban.

Francis is therefore free to play in England’s next game against Argentina in Tokyo on Saturday.

The policing of high tackles has been the biggest point of controversy at the World Cup, with referees seemingly confused by the issue despite World Rugby’s new guidelines on how to deal with them.

Australia’s Reece Hodge received a three-match ban for a tackle that didn’t trigger any action on the field, before the disciplinary panel also gave three-game suspensions to Samoa’s Rey Lee-Lo and Motu Matu’u, who had both been yellow-carded.

American flanker John Quill was also banned for three games for a high shot on England’s Farrell that earned a red card, and Francis was widely assumed to be heading for the same punishment.

But the panel said there were mitigating factors in deciding not to hand out a ban for Francis’s hit on Hooley from the opening kick-off.

Hooley had dropped down just before the tackle, the panel decided, while Francis also attempted to avoid contact with the player’s head, taking much of the force of the blow with his own head.

“The committee weighed up the factors for and against mitigation and on the balance of probabilities, decided that the mitigating factors outweighed the factors against mitigation and so the appropriate on-field sanction was a yellow card,” a statement said.

“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.”

© AFP 2019   

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