The Munster wing had been sent off at Thomond Park on October 22 for a dangerous tackle on Glasgow hooker Fraser Brown. In the wake of head coach Anthony Foley’s funeral 24 hours earlier, Earls’s reaction to his dismissal was clearly emotional, exchanging words with Brown and other Glasgow players as he left the field before angrily kicking water bottles as he returned to the Munster bench.
His subsequent hearing before an independent disciplinary committee saw Earls acknowledge his role in the act of foul play and evidence was heard that he had also apologised for his actions after the match.
Champions Cup organisers EPCR, however, took issue with an interview given to journalists by Earls during the November Test window in which he appeared to backtrack on the position he gave to the disciplinary committee, which had given him the maximum mitigation in reducing his suspension to two weeks on account of his contrition.
Earls had suggested during Ireland camp that the only thing he felt the need to apologise for was kicking the water bottles, leaving EPCR feeling compelled to protect to the integrity of their disciplinary process. In the meantime, Glasgow hooker Brown also took exception to the Munster star’s words, saying last week he rejected Earls’ suggestion he had not done enough to protect himself. “I think afterwards claiming that I could probably have done more is a bit disrespectful to myself and to other guys in that situation,” Brown said.
Yesterday both EPCR and Earls issued statements, the tournament organisers saying that the player had repeated his acknowledgment of wrongdoing and accepted he had been wrong to suggest otherwise in the media, “when he has a responsibility to uphold the image of the game.” EPCR said no further action would be taken against Earls, whose own statement, issued simultaneously through Munster Rugby.
“I hope to put to bed a matter that has escalated because of my own doing,” Earls said. “In a poorly worded interview on my part I failed to acknowledge that I apologised to Fraser Brown for my actions during the Munster v Glasgow Warriors game. I also failed to confirm that I acknowledged I had committed an act of foul play, and fully accepted the corresponding sanction, apologising to Glasgow Warriors and EPCR for my conduct. I have since written to EPCR once again confirming my acceptance of the disciplinary decision and outcome. I have also addressed the misunderstanding directly with Fraser and unreservedly apologised again for my actions and the wording I used during the interview.
“I hope this paints a clearer picture for all and I believe it is important October 22nd in Thomond Park is remembered for the right reasons and not for something I deeply regret.”