today is Mar 23, 2023

Nigel Owens has delivered his verdict on the failure to red-card a USA rugby player who performed a dangerous and brutal ruck clear-out on a Kenyan opponent.

America defeated Kenya 68-14 in a first round World Cup qualifying tournament match in Dubai.

However, overshadowing their win was the incident in the seventh minute that saw giant USA second-row Siaosi Mahoni tuck his arm and drive into a Kenya player’s head with his upper right arm and shoulder.

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Just as shockingly, referee Tual Trainini decided to show a yellow card rather than dismiss the 6ft 8in, 21st 6lb Mahoni.

It was a call that caused no small degree of outrage.

Former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan took to Twitter to say: “We talk about educating players on foul play. It would be great to extend that education to referees before we give them a whistle. This happened in an international test game not a Sunday afternoon social team game. Shocking beyond description.”

Journalist Peter Jackson said: “Parents of rugby-loving youngsters will see this from the USA-Kenya World Cup qualifier and ask: What kind of game accepts such gratuitous brutality? Which is more shocking: Siaosi Mahoni’s assault or the referee’s failure to send him off?”

Now Owens, who refereed the 2015 World Cup final, has had his say, stating on World Rugby’s Whistle Watch that it was a clear red-card offence.

“This is non-negotiable,” he said.

“The clear message here to all the referees from World Rugby and everyone involved in the game is this type of action should be a red card.

“He comes in at speed, has a clear sight of view, so he can clearly see what’s in front of him, and he comes in and makes contact with the head. That is dangerous and that is a clear red card.

“This is not a ‘maybe a yellow or maybe a red’. This is a clear red card. We need to get this type of action out of the game.”

Nigel Owens (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)

Former England hooker Steve Thompson said: "I want to respect the referees but surely it comes to a point where we need to hold them accountable.”

Thompson is suffering from early-onset dementia and believes rugby authorities should have done more to protect him as a player.

The lobby group Progressive Rugby branded the incident " utterly appalling ".

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