TOKYO (Reuters) - England inside centre Piers Francis has been cleared to continue to play in the Rugby World Cup after a disciplinary panel on Sunday dismissed a citing for a dangerous tackle in his team’s match with the United States.
Francis was cited for his high tackle on American Will Hooley straight from the opening kickoff of their Pool C game in Kobe on Thursday.
While referee Nic Berry opted not to review the tackle at the time, television replays showed Francis’s shoulder appeared to catch the U.S. fullback in the jaw and he was cited to appear before the panel on Sunday.
“The player admitted that he had committed an act of foul play but denied that it reached the red card threshold,” World Rugby said in a statement on Sunday.
“Having considered all the angles of the incident, together with evidence from the player and submissions from his legal counsel, the panel 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.”
England, who top Pool C with two bonus-point wins over Tonga and the U.S., face Argentina in Tokyo next Saturday.
Francis is the first player to face the disciplinary panel at the World Cup and not receive a suspension.
Australia’s Reece Hodge, Samoa pair Rey Lee-lo and Motu Matu’u were all cited for high tackles and received three-game suspensions.
U.S. flanker John Quill was also given a three-game suspension after he was the first player sent off in the tournament for a shoulder charge on England’s Owen Farrell in the same game.
Uruguay hooker Facundo Gattas is also likely to face a disciplinary hearing after he was sent off by referee Wayne Barnes for a high, no-arms tackle with about three minutes remaining in his side’s loss to Georgia in Kumagaya on Sunday.
Editing by Toby Davis