Ben Stokes was among the celebrities to react to a controversial red card during the Ireland vs England grand slam decider in the Six Nations on Saturday.
Ireland entered the match in Dublin as heavy favourites to seal a grand slam – awarded for winning all five of your matches during a Six Nations campaign – against an England side, who suffered an historic humiliation at Twickenham against France just seven days before, being thumped 53-10 for their largest-ever home defeat.
But England had started strongly at the Aviva Stadium, a much-improved performance seeing them only trailing 10-6 towards the end of the first half. However, their task became much harder when star full back Freddie Steward was shown a harsh red card.
In the 40th minute, Ireland’s Hugo Keenan collided uncomfortably with Steward’s elbow as he stooped to try and collect a dropped ball. Steward had turned to brace for Keenan, who was in an unnatural position with the whistle blown, and accidentally made contact with his head. Referee Jaco Peyper argued that the England man had a duty of care towards his opponent and should have done more to avoid contact, leading to a red card that left England’s players baffled.
Twitter immediately reacted to the decision, including a number of famous faces having their say, and England cricket captain Ben Stokes was one of those, tweeting: “ Red card??????????? Shambles shambles shambles. Rugby being ruined.”
Stokes then followed up with a second tweet, saying: “Anyone trying to defend that red card decision at the half time break is just trying to look after themselves”
England prop Joe Marler, who hasn’t been selected for the squad during this Six Nations, echoed that disbelief.
He wrote: “Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. In fact it’s complete and utter b****ks.”
Former England fly half Andy Goode added: “Awful call from Jaco Peyper, that’s a rugby incident never a red card for Steward.”
Welsh comedian Mike Bubbins also weighed in, saying: “That really is incredibly harsh on Freddie Steward. I am a major advocate of making the game safer, but I don’t see what else he could do, there. He’s been one of Englands best players this #SixNations , too.”
Former Scotland international and current rugby pundit Jim Hamilton said: “Absolutely the wrong call. So so wrong. That’s “a rugby incident “ #IREvENG”
Another ex-England international Ben Foden also backed the almost universal calls suggesting the decision was wrong.
Foden tweeted: “Anyone who thinks that was a red card has never played rugby. If Steward didn’t pull out it would have been much worse for Keenan. Yellow at worse. A forward pass, bouncing ball and split second decision which steward did the right thing and pulled out. “