All Blacks sympathise with red-carded French fullback

The All Blacks beat France 26-13 in Wellington to clinch the three-Test series

Wellington (AFP) – Fallout from the red card that blighted the second Test between the All Blacks and France continued Sunday with players from both sides saying Benjamin Fall should not have been sent off.

There was a reluctant acceptance that under the laws of the game, referee Angus Gardner had no option but to dismiss the French fullback after his mid-air collision with Beauden Barrett in Wellington on Saturday.

But critics said the problem lay with a rigid interpretation of the rules.

With France reduced to 14 men after Fall was dismissed in the 12th minute, the game was as good as over as the All Blacks went on to win 26-13 to wrap up the three-Test series.

But even with a one-man advantage, the All Blacks struggled and after building a 21-6 buffer by half-time, they were outplayed and outscored in the second half.

Coach Steve Hansen, who called for the laws of the sport to allow players to remain on the field, said the red card spoiled the game and Fall’s contact with Barrett was “not intentional”.

When All Blacks prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi collided with the head of Remy Grosso last week, causing a double facial fracture, he escaped penalty — the accidental nature of the hit meant it did not meet the threshold for a red card.

All Blacks wing Ben Smith, an expert under the high ball, said it was tough on Fall to be sent off.

“I feel sorry for him, but (the referee) is just going off the rules and what he has seen. I think it is a really tough one because you still want that contest but it is getting very hard to rule on,” Smith said.

“It happens pretty quickly… It is hard because the guys go up and you lose your feet but that is the way it is and it is part of the game.” 

Barrett fell head first into the turf and left the field with concussion, making him an unlikely starter in the third and final Test next week in Dunedin.

His brother Jordie, the All Blacks fullback, said it was a “scary” collision but players knew it was an occupational hazard.

“You know you are in a vulnerable position when you contest for the ball. At times you do fall awkwardly and as we saw (Beauden’s) was worse than other ones,” the younger Barrett said. 

While there was no intent by Fall to injure anyone, the jumpers needed protection.

“From a catching point of view, you can’t think about it though,” Jordie Barrett said.

“If you go up worrying someone’s going to hit you, you’re not going to catch the ball nine times out 10. You’ve just got to trust other players have a duty of care.”

France coach Jacques Brunel said his fullback deserved a yellow card at least, but was unsure whether a red was warranted.

However, inside centre Geoffrey Doumayrou was adamant Fall should not have been sent off and said the fullback was knocked off balance by Anton Lienert-Brown as he rose to contest the ball. 

“It was never” a red card, Doumayrou said.

Fall is to appear before a judicial hearing late Sunday.