List of Rugby World Cup red cards

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Paul Williams performing the Siva Tau at the 2011 Rugby World Cup shortly before becoming the first of two players to be sent off in the 2011 competition.

A total of 17 red cards have been issued during Rugby World Cup tournaments since the first in 1987. Discipline at the 2003 event could be said to be the best out of all seven tournaments to date, at least in terms of red cards, as none were issued. Nine different countries have seen at least one of their players dismissed, with Tonga and Canada both having lost three members of their team. The position with the most red cards is flanker, with five such players leaving the field. Two team captains have been dismissed by the referee. There has only been 1 red card to date for 2 yellow card offenses.


The first player to receive a red card was Welsh lock Huw Richards in the inaugural Rugby World Cup. Richards punched New Zealand lock Gary Whetton and received a one-week suspension for his actions. He therefore missed the final match of the team's World Cup – the third place playoff against Australia.[1] In that match Australian flanker David Codey was sent off in the fifth minute, the quickest dismissal in any Rugby World Cup.[2] Warned after only one minute, Codey again trampled on a Welsh player in a ruck and was told to leave the field. The game continued and Australia lost by a point.[3]

The 1991 Rugby World Cup saw two locks from opposing teams shown the red card. Highly regarded Argentine Pedro Sporleder, who would go on to compete in the next three tournaments, fought with Samoan Matt Keenan and both were sent from the field.[4]

Four players were sent off during the 1995 Rugby World Cup with three of them being dismissed in one incident. Electrical problems at the Boet Erasmus Stadium in Port Elizabeth caused the South Africa–Canada match to be postponed by 45 minutes, adding to the tension of the last, decisive Pool A game. With 10 minutes left the South Africans were leading 20–0 when a challenge by Pieter Hendriks on Canadian Winston Stanley sparked a fight between the two teams. Fullback Scott Stewart charged into Hendriks and was joined by Springbok hooker James Dalton and several others. Referee David McHugh chose to send off Dalton as well as Canadians Rod Snow and Gareth Rees, the captain. Investigations after the match led to Hendriks and Stewart being suspended.[5][6] One week earlier Tongan flanker Feleti Mahoni was caught stamping on the head of Frenchman Philippe Benetton during a ruck, resulting in an immediate dismissal and a lengthy ban. Until that point Tonga had been making impressive progress against a French team that had been tipped to win the tournament.[7]

The 1999 Rugby World Cup also saw four players dismissed but this time in four different matches and from four different teams. The first red card went to Marika Vunibaka who had scored a try and in doing so became the only player to have been sent off after scoring points. Dismissed in injury time at the end of the second half, the Fijian was adjudged to have head-butted a Canadian player.[8] Canadian flanker Dan Baugh was sent off for stamping on a Namibian player and subsequently received a four-week ban. Ngalu Taufo'ou was sanctioned in the same way after running ten metres to punch England flanker Richard Hill. On the same day Brendan Venter was sent off for stamping on Uruguayan Martin Panizza.[9]

Unique amongst the seven tournaments, no players were sent off during the 48 games of the 2003 Rugby World Cup.[10]

Two players were shown red cards for two different teams at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, both on the same day. Tongan Hale T-Pole was dismissed in the final ten minutes of the match against Samoa when he elbowed substitute Leo Lafaiali'i in the face. He had received several warnings from the referee prior to the incident.[11] Namibian Jacques Nieuwenhuis received his red card after a dangerous tackle on Frenchman Sébastien Chabal. The resultant enquiry decided that Nieuwenhuis had recklessly but not intentionally tackled Chabal around the head and gave him a one match ban.[12][13]

Two players were sent off during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Samoa's Paul Williams was reprimanded for striking a South African player but escaped a ban when it was deemed that his actions were not heavy, had no adverse effect on the game, and that there were "compelling on-field and/or off-field aggravating features".[14] Wales captain Sam Warburton was sent off in the semi-final against France because he did not safely return a player to the floor after a tackle. The decision was controversial with several commentators believing that it should only be a yellow card because Warburton did not drive the player into the ground. Austin Healey was only of several current and former players who criticised the dismissal on Twitter, calling it a "most ridiculous decision". However, the red card was upheld after the match and Warburton was given a three-week ban. Warburton became only the second player to be dismissed in a semi-final, the latest stage towards the final that any player has received a red card.[15][16] Coincidentally, the other player, Huw Richards, was also representing Wales.[1]

Red cards[edit]

Rugby World Cup red cards
No. Player Position For Against Result Time Date Ref.
1 Richards, HuwHuw Richards Lock  Wales  New Zealand 6–49 77' 14 June 1987 [1][17]
2 Codey, DavidDavid Codey Flanker  Australia  Wales 21–22 5' 18 June 1987 [2][3][18]
3 Sporleder, PedroPedro Sporleder Lock  Argentina  Samoa 12–35  ?' 13 October 1991 [4][19]
4 Keenan, MattMatt Keenan Lock  Samoa  Argentina 35–12  ?' 13 October 1991 [4][19]
5 Mahoni, FeletiFeleti Mahoni Flanker  Tonga  France 10–38 68' 26 May 1995 [7][20]
6 Rees, GarethGareth Rees Fly-half (captain)  Canada  South Africa 0–20 70' 3 June 1995 [5][21]
7 Snow, RodRod Snow Prop  Canada  South Africa 0–20 70' 3 June 1995 [5][21]
8 Dalton, JamesJames Dalton Hooker  South Africa  Canada 20–0 70' 3 June 1995 [5][21]
9 Vunibaka, MarikaMarika Vunibaka Wing  Fiji  Canada 38–22 80'+ 9 October 1999 [8][9][22]
10 Baugh, DanDan Baugh Flanker  Canada  Namibia 72–11 48' 14 October 1999 [9][23]
11 Taufo'ou, NgaluNgalu Taufo'ou Prop  Tonga  England 10–101 35' 15 October 1999 [9][24]
12 Venter, BrendanBrendan Venter Centre  South Africa  Uruguay 39–3 40' 15 October 1999 [9][25]
13 T-Pole, HaleHale T-Pole Flanker  Tonga  Samoa 19–15 71' 16 September 2007 [11][26]
14 Nieuwenhuis, JacquesJacques Nieuwenhuis Number 8  Namibia  France 10–87 19' 16 September 2007 [12][13][27]
15 Williams, PaulPaul Williams Fullback  Samoa  South Africa 5–13 70' 30 September 2011 [14][28]
16 Warburton, SamSam Warburton Flanker (captain)  Wales  France 8–9 17' 15 October 2011 [15][16]
17 Ormaechea, AgustínAgustín Ormaechea Scrum Half  Uruguay  Fiji 15–47 66' 6 October 2015


  Did not participate
Team 1987 1991 1995 1999 2003 2007 2011 2015 Total
 Argentina 1 1
 Australia 1 1
 Canada 2 1 3
 England 0
 Fiji 1 1
 France 0
 Georgia 0
 Ireland 0
 Italy 0
 Ivory Coast 0
 Japan 0
 Namibia 1 1
 New Zealand 0
 Portugal 0
 Romania 0
 Russia 0
 Samoa 1 1 2
 Scotland 0
 South Africa 1 1 2
 Spain 0
 Tonga 1 1 1 3
 United States 0
 Uruguay 1 1
 Wales 1 1 2
 Zimbabwe 0
Total 2 2 4 4 0 2 2 1 17

See also[edit]




  1. ^ a b c New Zealand 49 Wales 6. Welsh Rugby Union. 14 June 1987. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  2. ^ a b Summary FRA 87–10 NAM. Rugby News Service. 16 September 2007. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  3. ^ a b Aldworth, Winston. 1987: A sending off that made Wallaby history. The New Zealand Herald. 15 August 2011. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Barclay, Tom. Greatest Rugby World Cup XV: second row front jumper profiles – Pedro Sporleder. The Telegraph. 8 August 2011. Accessed 9 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Rich, Gavin. Memorable Moments. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  6. ^ "SA Rugby Match Centre – South Africa 20-0 Canada". South African Rugby Union. 3 June 1995. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Cole, Robert. Tonga rattle French until sending-off. The Independent. 27 May 1995. Accessed 9 October 2011.
  8. ^ a b Fiji advances with hard-fought 38–22 win. Sports Illustrated. 9 October 1999. Accessed 9 October 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d e Taufo'ou banned for 'flying' punch. 16 October 1999. Accessed 9 October 2011.
  10. ^ Rugby World Cup / Most team red cards in a match. ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 24 October 2011.
  11. ^ a b Harlow, Phil. Samoa v Tonga as it happened. BBC News. 16 September 2007. Accessed 9 October 2011.
  12. ^ a b Nieuwenhuis suspended for one match. Rugby News Service. 18 September 2007. Accessed 9 October 2011.
  13. ^ a b Inson, Jeremy. Nieuwenhuis takes his medicine. Rugby News Service. 20 September 2007. Accessed 9 October 2011.
  14. ^ a b Gallagher, Brendan. Rugby World Cup 2011: Samoa full-back Paul Williams avoids ban after red card against South Africa. The Telegraph. 1 October 2011. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  15. ^ a b Standley, James. Rugby World Cup 2011: Live text - Wales v France. BBC News. 15 October 2011. Accessed 15 October 2011.
  16. ^ a b Rugby World Cup 2011: Sam Warburton banned for three weeks. BBC News. 16 October 2011. Accessed 16 October 2011.
  17. ^ New Zealand v Wales at Brisbane, Jun 14, 1987 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  18. ^ Australia v Wales at Rotorua, Jun 18, 1987 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  19. ^ a b Argentina v Samoa at Pontypridd, Oct 13, 1991 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  20. ^ France v Tonga at Pretoria, May 26, 1995 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  21. ^ a b c South Africa v Canada at Port Elizabeth, Jun 3, 1995 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  22. ^ Canada v Fiji at Bordeaux, Oct 9, 1999 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  23. ^ Canada v Namibia at Toulouse, Oct 14, 1999 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  24. ^ England v Tonga at Twickenham, Oct 15, 1999 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  25. ^ South Africa v Uruguay at Glasgow, Oct 15, 1999 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  26. ^ Samoa v Tonga at Montpellier, Sep 16, 2007 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  27. ^ France v Namibia at Toulouse, Sep 16, 2007 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.
  28. ^ Samoa v South Africa at North Shore City, Sep 30, 2011 ESPN Scrum. SFMS Limited. Accessed 8 October 2011.