Explained: Why the URC overturned Cian Healy’s red card

Leinster prop free to play against Racing after URC downgrades card from red to yellow

Cian Healy has avoided suspension after being sent off during Leinster’s 38-29 United Rugby Championship victory over Ulster last weekend. The Ireland international prop saw red midway through the first half for his role in a head-on-head collision with Ulster hooker Tom Stewart.

After reviewing the incident with his TMO, English referee Christophe Ridley decided that the head contact was a dangerous act of foul play with no mitigation, making the decision to reduce Leinster to 14 men for the remainde of the interpro.

“We’ve determined foul play because he definitely could have been lower,” said Ridley on Saturday evening. “It’s definitely an offensive tackle, so it is a high level of danger. Is there a significant change of direction or height? And the answer to that is no in my eyes... so we’re talking red card.” His TMO Rowan Kitt agreed with him.

However, on Wednesday afternoon the URC announced that, due to mitigating factors, Ridley’s decision had been downgraded from a red to a yellow card, meaning Healy will not miss this weekend’s Champions Cup opener away to Racing through suspension. The decision caused confusion among fans when, initially, the reasons behind the reversal were not fully disclosed.

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The mitigation has now been listed to The Irish Times by the URC as follows:

- Healy’s tackle was passive

- His feet were planted and there was no forward momentum

- Healy appeared to have a high degree of control

- Ulster player’s change of direction and dip caused Healy to adjust late

Stewart was withdrawn after sustaining a head injury in the collision and did not return for the duration of the match. In an injury update on Tuesday, Ulster said that he, John Cooney and Iain Henderson are all undergoing the return to play protocols after sustaining head injuries on Saturday, raising doubts around their availability for this weekend’s trip to Sale.

Later in the same match, James Hume was shown a yellow card for a similar head-on-head collision with Garry Ringrose, only the Leinster centre’s sudden change of direction was enough to save Hume from red.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist