England and South Africa players brawled during the early stages of their tense Rugby World Cup semi-final. England defended brilliantly on their 22 but players from both teams came together. Manu Tuilagi was penalised by the referee for steaming in and gripping an opponent with both hands.
Referee Ben O’Keeffe called both captains in for a word and warned them “I will not accept players pushing and shoving, OK?”
A rattled Owen Farrell furiously protested the decision and kept arguing long beyond necessary. The skipper had kicked England into a 6-0 lead thanks to two penalties.
South Africa opted against trying to halve the deficit by not kicking the resulting penalty from the scuffle. Farrell’s backchat to the referee continued into the 20th minute and he gave away a cheap penalty, which South Africa converted to finally get on the board.
Farrell has felt the heat from fans in France all tournament and has been regularly booed. But ex-England star Richard Wigglesworth sent a strong warning to those doubting the captain.
He said: “We are lucky to have Owen. As ever, the tallest trees catch the most wind and he seems to catch a fair bit of it.
“He’s proven time and time and time again and I don’t understand why in England we feel the need to not celebrate that, not enjoy it, just because he’s not sat in front of social media or the media lapping all that up.
“He is incredibly serious about his career, he is an incredibly proud Englishman. He affects any team he is in and he was brilliant for us – as we knew he would be. That was the maddening part of any noise. We knew what was coming from him.”
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