England captain Owen Farrell was left out of the squad to play Ireland in a World Cup warm-up match by coach Steve Borthwick as World Rugby said it would appeal the decision to overturn his red card against Wales.
World Rugby’s announcement earlier Thursday cast a shadow over fly-half Farrell’s involvement at the upcoming World Cup in France, which starts next month.
Farrell was sent off during England’s 19-17 warm-up win over Wales at Twickenham last weekend when the recently introduced ‘bunker’ review system upgraded an initial yellow card to red after he made contact with a shoulder-led tackle to the head of Taine Basham.
The 31-year-old Farrell was facing a six-week ban that could have ruled him out of the start of the World Cup.
But an all-Australian disciplinary panel caused uproar on Tuesday by concluding the foul play review officer “was wrong, on the balance of probabilities”, to upgrade the yellow card to a red.
It ruled Farrell was free to play again immediately.
The verdict sparked a furore. England’s 2003 World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward said it had made rugby union a “complete and utter laughing stock”.
World Rugby said Thursday they thought an appeal “warranted”.
England boss Borthwick had intended to select Farrell to face a top-ranked Ireland side coached by the player’s father, Andy Farrell.
Instead England will start George Ford at fly-half, with Marcus Smith on the bench.
“In my original planning for the Summer Nations Series and as part of our Rugby World Cup preparation, Owen Farrell was due to be selected to play in this Saturday’s Test match in Dublin,” said Borthwick.
“However, in light of the fact that so much of Owen’s training and match preparation time this week has been significantly affected and interrupted by the disciplinary process, I have not selected him in the matchday 23.
“Owen will travel to Ireland with our full support.”
Borthwick, himself a former England captain, added: “Owen understands the situation, but is of course disappointed, as I am, that he is missing such a special game that he would otherwise have played in.”
Experienced back-row Courtney Lawes captains a side showing six changes to the starting XV that beat Wales.
In midfield, Manu Tuilagi, a member of the England team that lost the 2019 World Cup final to South Africa, starts his first game of the warm-up campaign at inside centre, partnering Joe Marchant.
Veteran scrum-half Ben Youngs is alongside Ford.
In the front row, loosehead prop Ellis Genge is one of two changes to the forward pack, having won his 50th cap from the bench last Saturday. David Ribbans returns in the second row.
“It is a great challenge against the number one ranked team in the world and we are all excited for this fixture,” said Borthwick. “The game will be excellent preparation for us ahead of the Rugby World Cup.”
England have one further warm-up game, against Fiji on August 26, before launching their World Cup campaign against Argentina in Marseille on September 9.
England team to play Ireland (15-1)
Freddie Steward; Anthony Watson, Joe Marchant, Manu Tuilagi, Elliot Daly; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, Ben Earl, Courtney Lawes (capt); David Ribbans, Maro Itoje; Will Stuart, Jamie George, Ellis Genge
Replacements: Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Ollie Chessum, Jack Willis, Danny Care, Marcus Smith, Ollie Lawrence
Coach: Steve Borthwick (ENG)