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Six Nations: Stephen Ferris Understands Why Barnes Didn't Send Atonio Off

Six Nations: Stephen Ferris Understands Why Barnes Didn't Send Atonio Off
Joshua Bell Curran
By Joshua Bell Curran
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Ireland welcomed France to the Aviva Stadium last weekend where they secured a bonus point win in what was to be one of the best games in Six Nations history.

However, on what was a wonderful day for Irish Rugby, the lack of a red card for Uini Atonio's horror tackle on Rob Herring was a point of contention for Irish fans. Experts and viewers alike were astonished that Wayne Barnes didn't show the French man red for the incident, opting for a sin bin instead.

Six Nations: Stephen Ferris on controversial Uini Atonio incident

Atonio hasn't escaped that easily though, with the citing commission announcing that the French prop has been banned for the remaining three games of the Six Nations. Although he will have the opportunity to compete in France's final Six Nations game against Wales should he complete a coaching intervention programme, more colloquially known as 'tackle school'.

The citing committee's decision confirms what commentators, pundits, and viewers were all saying on the day, that it was an obvious red card not a yellow. Atonio even acknowledged that the tackle was a red card offence himself, with Six Nations organisers saying he admitted that he had committed an act of foul play worthy of a red card.

Frances Uini Antonio tackles Caelan Dorris in Ireland v Wales in the Six Nations

11 February 2023; Caelan Doris of Ireland is tackled by Paul Willemse, left, and Uini Atonio of France during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Former Ireland and Ulster rugby legend Stephen Ferris is no stranger to Wayne Barnes, having been subject to his refereeing on many occasions during his time playing in the Six Nations.


In the lead-up to the match, Ferris had already flagged the significance of Barnes taking charge of the game, with the Ulster man already expecting controversial decisions from the referee. However, he was in no doubt as to whether the horrific tackle should have been a red card, telling Balls.ie:

I said that there was going to be controversial moments. There was going to be moments where you know, teams would feel hard done by, the home fans would feel hard done by. Barnes, he always seems to have his name in the lights and a lot of the time its for the right reasons, but the odd time for the wrong reasons and I think he got this one wrong, and I think the suspension to Antonio you know, clarifies that for us, that that should have been a red card.

If that's a World Cup final it has to be a red card. It has to be a red card every day.

Despite all that, Ferris told us he could certainly see Wayne Barnes's point of view, even suggesting that we got a better game as a result.

Red cards ruining competitive games was something Ferris was conscious of, and with this game coined as one of the biggest rugby matches of the year, he thought Barnes was keen to see a brilliant game played out 15 against 15.


However, I can get why you give a yellow card. It's the biggest match of the year, the last thing he wants to do is send off arguably one of their best forwards and ruin the contest. A red card for me, as we've seen over the last couple of seasons, it ruins games. You know, it buries the game.

I can sort of understand what he is looking for, just something to give him a yellow card because he didn't want to spoil the biggest game where millions you know (were watching), RTE's numbers were off the charts.

At the end of the game we're like you know what? We beat France with 15 men on the pitch for 70 minutes, and you know not to give them an excuse if that makes sense. But it's just great being an Irish man able to talk about it now when it didn't really have an impact on the game.

It's hard to disagree with Ferris here. While we all know that Antonio's tackle was horrific and Wayne Barnes's clearly got it wrong handing out a yellow card.

There can be no doubt about who was the better rugby team on the day, and there can be no doubt about Ireland deserving to win, like Stephen Ferris says it's great to be able to say that as an Irishman. The result means Ireland are still on track to claim a Six Nations Championship as they sit top of the table after two games.

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