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The final call on Bristol lock's highly debated head stamp red card

DISCPLINARY NEWS: The Bristol Bears second row Josh Caulfield had his red card overturned following an independent Disciplinary Hearing.

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Caulfield was sent off in the 12th minute for a headstamp on Ireland prop Finlay Bealham during Bristol Bears’ 10-27 defeat to Connacht on Saturday.

As he cleared the ruck Caulfield can be seen raising his leg, apparently to step over prop Bealham. His boot comes down early, however, landing squarely on the side of the Connacht tighthead’s face.

Medics attended to prop Bealham, who had immediately grasped his face when he felt contact from Caulfield, who was on the charge into a ruck.

Referee Pierre Brousset stopped proceedings to look at the big screen and confer with the TMO.

Consequently, Caulfield was sent off by referee Pierre Brousset, for contravening  Law 9.12.

Law 9.12 A player must not stamp on an opponent
Under World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 9.12, stamping or trampling, carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid-range: 6 weeks; Top end: 12 to 52 weeks

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He faced an independent Disciplinary Committee comprising Paul Thomas (Wales), Chair, Marcello D’Orey (Portugal) and Stefan Terblanche (South Africa), who viewed footage of the incident and heard evidence by video conference.

Caulfield did not accept that he had committed an act of foul play.

ECPR released a statement, revealing that the committee determined that Caulfield had committed an act of foul play.

But the offence did not warrant a red card, and the red card decision was therefore overturned.

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Caulfield is free to play immediately and EPCR has the right to appeal the decision.

The incident caused a social media storm at the weekend, with some supporters arguing that Caulfield’s action was unintentional, noting that he appeared not to be looking at Bealham as his foot made contact. They contend that there was no deliberate stamping motion, suggesting the incident was an unfortunate accident.

England and Bristol prop Ellis Genge wrote: “There is no way in this world Josh Caulfield has intentionally stamped on his head, every player watching that knows it too.”

On the other hand, a section of rugby fans online insists that the red card was justified, emphasizing the player’s duty of care towards his opponent. This group argues on the X that the action is reckless, warranting the dismissal regardless of intent.

*Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Wales centre Johnny Williams will miss the majority of the Six Nations season due to his six-week suspension.

Williams has been handed a six-week ban for a dangerous tackle during the Challenge Cup match against Clermont.

He was initially given a 12-week suspension.

However his punishment was reduced due to his timely acceptance of the charge and his apology to Hériteau, the EPCR revealed.

The Wales centre received his suspension last week. However  the committee had to wait for full details of his playing schedule before determining which games he is set to miss.

Now it has been confirmed that he is free to play on Monday March, 4 and if he applies for and successfully completes a World Rugby Coaching Intervention, he will be free to play on Monday, February 26.

Williams will miss following matches:

Challenge Cup:
Scarlets v Edinburgh, Friday, January 19

Six Nations:
Wales v Scotland, Saturday, February 3
England v Wales, Saturday, February 10
Ireland v Wales, Saturday, February 24

Friendly:
Exeter Chiefs v Scarlets, Saturday, February 10

URC:
Scarlets v Connacht, Saturday, March 2

*Additional source: Rugbypass

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