SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Owen Farrell's tackle on Atkinson was reckless

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Owen Farrell’s tackle on Wasps wing Charlie Atkinson was reckless… we should expect better from an England captain

  • Owen Farrell’s high tackle on Charlie Atkinson warrants a hefty punishment
  • The game no longer tolerates such ill-discipline and Farrell will be banned 
  • It seemed like a tackle born out of frustration after a disappointing season
  • As an England captain, fans expect the 28-year-old to lead by example

We’ve all seen Owen Farrell’s tackle on Charlie Atkinson by now and there is no question that he is looking at a ban. It’s just a matter of how long. It was reckless, high, ill-disciplined and executed with huge force and he knew from the off that he was in trouble.

There is no bigger fan of Farrell than me and apologising to the Wasps wing on the touchline a few minutes later epitomises his character but the brutal facts are he did it and it could have caused a serious injury.

The consequences are going to be considerable. If it is considered a mid-range offence that usually results in a six-week ban, which might get halved if there is an admission of guilt and if his previously good record in terms of bans is taken into account. But was that a mid-range offence? It was the most obvious high tackle red card you will ever see.

Owen Farrell’s high tackle on Charlie Atkinson was ill-disciplined and warranted a red card

There is surely no way he will play in the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster and that will hurt Saracens. Those big European games are when a player like Farrell comes into his own. He has been at the heart of their three European titles.

And it could be touch and go as to whether he is available for England’s remaining Six Nations game in Rome in October.

For me that looked like a tackle born of frustration. It’s been a testing season for Farrell. There was the disappointment of how England failed to perform in the World Cup final and then the huge shock of Saracens being fined and then condemned to relegation for their salary cap offence. 

The Saracens man will rightly receive a lengthy ban for the dangerous tackle on Wasps wing

Atkinson receives treatment from Wasps medical staff during the Premiership match

All that frustration came spilling out in the tackle. Farrell has to get these tackles out of his system. Not only can they cost his side dear but as the England captain he has to be better. He has players in his England team, such as Sam Underhill and Tom Curry, whose technique is nigh on perfect.

With his love of rugby league and league background, aiming for the upper torso is probably part of his tackling DNA and I know he has been trying to modify his technique but this was different, it wasn’t front on, he had time to line his man up from the side and there was every opportunity to make a hard hitting but legal tackle.

He was very lucky not to receive a red card a while back against South Africa at Twickenham and he knows just how dangerous these out of control challenges can be. He was on the receiving end at the World Cup when the US flanker John Quill clocked him with a cheap shot to the head.

The game is no longer willing to tolerate such dangerous tackles as the England captain is about to discover.

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