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England centre Piers Francis is free to play in the remainder of the Rugby World Cup having been cleared by a panel at a disciplinary hearing earlier today.

Francis was cited earlier this week following a high tackle on Will Hooley just seconds into England’s 45-7 win over the USA on Thursday, the fourth player to be cited at the tournament so far.

At the hearing, Francis admitted that he had committed an act of foul play but denied that it reached the red card threshold.

Having considered all the angles of the incident, together with evidence from the player and submissions from his legal counsel, the panel, comprised of Nigel Hampton QC (New Zealand), joined by former international coach Frank Hadden (Scotland) and former international player John Langford (Australia), determined that the act ought to have resulted in a yellow card on-field.

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.

The committee decided that there was significant and sufficient mitigation to be found:

1. In the sudden change of height by the USA player immediately before contact. It was only at the time of that sudden change that the clear line of sight factor (against mitigation) came in to play and could become of relevance; and that line of sight factor, therefore, was somewhat limited in its application, and the weight to be given to it;

2. In that the player, being in control of the tackle, attempted to avoid the opponent’s head by making a definite attempt to change his own height and his body position;

3. In the player’s initial contact being with his own head on the ball carrier’s left shoulder (and which initial contact absorbed a large degree of force), with the player’s left shoulder then slipping up to make indirect and minor contact to the ball carrier’s head, causing no apparent injury.

The news will come as a boost to Eddie Jones who now has a full panel of players to choose from ahead of their Pool C encounter with Argentina on Saturday.


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