Six Nations: Ireland’s Hugo Keenan backs decision to rescind Freddie Steward red card
The player who was the victim of Freddie Steward’s head shot, Hugo Keenan, believes that the disciplinary panel were correct in overturning the red card decision.
The England full-back was controversially sent off towards the end of the first half during the clash at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
After Mack Hansen had knocked on, both Keenan and Steward went charging for the ball. The Irishman got to it just ahead of his opposite number, who then only had a split second to react.
Instead of going for a tackle, which could have done more damage to Keenan considering the positions there were in going into contact, Steward decided to brace himself.
Unfortunately for the Ireland player, that resulted in him clattering into the Englishman’s arm and suffering a head injury.
Referee Jaco Peyper decided that a red card was his only option, but the independent panel disagreed, stating that there was enough mitigation to bring it down to a yellow.
“It’s probably fair enough, isn’t it?” Keenan said. “It’s up to the citing commissioners and the refs to make those decisions, but it was a bit of an accident, wasn’t it?
“He was very apologetic nearly straight away after and then after on the pitch as well. As a fellow full-back, I feel for him in those positions. I think it was just one of those sort of rugby incidents; it’s not like it was a reckless high challenge or anything like that.
“I caught him on the pitch and he apologised. I accepted it completely and we had a little chat. He’s a lovely lad in fairness.”
Keenan also felt that the significant size difference between the two contributed to the severity of the incident.
“He’s a very big boy, you don’t realise until you’re on the pitch,” he said.
“He’s probably nearly the biggest player on the pitch, so it probably didn’t help his cause did it? Putting me to shame with my mere height and weight.
“It was a weird incident. You never really see it. They’re just trying to eradicate any contact with the head, and it’s obviously an important issue to get right, but it’s probably more so for the high tackles or dangerous clearouts.
“It’s a tough one to know, so you just have to trust the higher powers and refs and citing commissioners to do their job to the best they can, and make the best call they can.”
Keenan was brought off for a head injury assessment but did not return to the field, instead having to watch the remainder of the game from the sideline.
“I remember it all. It was a good whack but I still knew exactly where I was, what the score was, everything about the game. So it was a pretty close call, I just failed the HIA,” he said.
“I think with the independent doctor, I was a small bit down on one of the tests so between that and the actual video evidence, you just have to trust the advice of the doctors.
“I was obviously mad keen to get back out there and very disappointed not to be able to because I certainly don’t like watching the games from the sideline. Jeez, the stress levels and the anxiety, oh God, I’m not used to it and I don’t want to get used to it.”
Reward for top class performances
Although Keenan’s Six Nations ended with him watching his Ireland team-mates see out a 29-16 victory over England and claim a Grand Slam, the 26-year-old played a crucial part throughout the rest of the competition.
The full-back has been rewarded for his displays after being nominated for the Player of the Championship award alongside fellow Irishmen Mack Hansen and Caelan Doris, as well as French trio Damian Penaud, Antoine Dupont and Thomas Ramos.
Keenan described it as a “nice honour” before adding: “But I think you could have picked anyone of the 1-15 or more of the lads who have played for Ireland.
“It’s definitely been a whole squad effort, and there’s been unbelievable standout performers for the team. It could be anyone.
“It’s been brilliant, we’ve had an enjoyable few days. Saturday was incredibly special, it’s a dream winning a Grand Slam in the Aviva in front of family and friends and that incredible support. We had a good night Saturday and a great day with family on Sunday as well, so it’s been an enjoyable few days.”