Tom Curry has been suspended for England’s Rugby World Cup matches vs Japan (Sunday September 17) and Chile (Saturday September 23) after his third-minute red card vs Argentina in Marseille on Saturday for a head-on-head tackle on Pumas full-back Juan Cruz Mallia
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 12/09/23 5:57pm
England back-row Tom Curry has been handed a two-game ban for his Rugby World Cup red card vs Argentina, for a head-on-head high tackle.
Curry was red-carded in Marseille on Saturday via World Rugby’s bunker review system – just as colleagues Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola were last month – as his yellow card for a head-on-head contact with Pumas full-back Juan Cruz Mallia was upgraded.
The ban means Curry will miss World Cup Pool D matches vs Japan (September 17) and Chile (September 23).
- Why spotlight is on rugby’s ‘inconsistent’ head contact laws
- Freddie Steward: Kevin Sinfield ‘rocket’ inspired England against Argentina
- Forgotten man George Ford’s bottle, red card concerns and peculiar Pumas
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
England’s Elliot Daly reflected on rugby’s tackle-height controversy ahead of Curry’s disciplinary hearing
The 25-year-old accepted he had committed a red card offence at the hearing, and saw an initial six-week suspension mitigated down to three weeks, and then two weeks, with the RFU confirming Curry will attend a Coaching Intervention Programme in lieu of missing a third match.
“The player accepted the red card and was suspended for two matches (subject to completion of the Coaching Intervention Programme). The independent Disciplinary Committee was chaired by Adam Casselden SC (Australia), joined by former players John Langford (Australia) and Jamie Corsi (Wales),” World Rugby confirmed.
“The player accepted that foul play occurred and that the offence warranted a red card.
“The Committee noted that the offence carries a mandatory minimum mid-range sanction (six matches), and having considered the mitigating factors, including admission of foul play and correctness of the red card at the first opportunity, an exemplary disciplinary record, apology to the player and good character, reduced the sanction by the maximum mitigation of 50 per cent.”
George Ford’s kicking proved pivotal as England posted a remarkable 27-10 Pool D victory over Argentina at the Stade Velodrome, despite the early dismissal of Curry.
Curry is the third England player in a month to be red carded and serve a ban, as four weeks ago at Twickenham, England skipper Farrell caught Wales flanker Taine Basham direct to the face with a high tackle, using a technique that has got him into bother previously, and was shown a red card.
Three weeks ago in Dublin, England No 8 Billy Vunipola was dismissed for a shoulder-to-head tackle on Ireland prop Andrew Porter, in which he made no attempt to wrap his arm.
Curry ban feels harsh, but he’s fortunate too | Vunipola, Willis, Ludlam all options
Analysis by Sky Sports’ Michael Cantillon…
For most watching on, the original yellow card shown to Curry for his clash with Cruz Mallia was expected to remain as such. When word came from TMO Marius Jonker to referee Mathieu Raynal that it would be upgraded to red, there was a fair deal of surprise for most, and shock for others.
Curry did clatter into his opponent head-on-head, causing Cruz Mallia enough damage that he departed the field covered in blood, and would fail his Head Injury Assessment (HIA), thus remaining off – like Curry – for the remainder.
But the England man also wrapped with both arms and seemed to accidentally make contact with his own head as Cruz Mallia fell into him at pace too. What did for Curry was that he was always high in the collision. He never changed his tackle height, came from a distance, and had clear line of sight. With World Rugby hot on head contact in the sport at present, it was a red card by the letter.
That being said, two games feels harsh for the incident, particularly when South Africa centre Jesse Kriel and Wales fly-half Dan Biggar also made tackles which saw head-on-head contact – albeit with far less impact than Curry’s – and were neither shown any card, nor were they cited.
On the other side of things, Curry is lucky in that the games he is missing are vs Japan – who, with their current form, England would be confident of beating anyway – and vs Chile, who Curry likely would not have faced in any case.
The 25-year-old will be back for England’s final Pool D clash vs Samoa and then the knockouts. It does make clear, though, that should a player receive a red card in the final round of pool games, they will likely miss the quarter-finals and the semi-finals – a high price to pay, and then some.
In terms of England’s next options, they do have Billy Vunipola available again following his own two-game ban, and he will likely come straight in at No 8, potentially shifting Ben Earl to openside. Lewis Ludlam and Jack Willis are also options available to Steve Borthwick.