Sam Cane caught up in red card 'farce' during World Cup final against South Africa

The Rugby World Cup final descended into chaos after an early call.

Wayne Barnes speaks to Ardie Savea and Sam Cane on the bench.
Sam Cane (pictured right) became the first person ever to be sent off in a Rugby World Cup final in a controversial call. (Getty Images)

Rugby fans have been left fuming after All Blacks flanker Sam Cane became the first player to be sent off in a Rugby World Cup final in South Africa's epic 12-11 win. South Africa were leading the All Blacks 9-3 in the all-Southern Hemisphere final in Paris.

However, the clash could be overshadowed after a controversial red card to veteran Cane in first half left rugby fans divided. Cane collected Jesse Kriel high with the smaller outside centre bracing for contact as Cane's shoulder made contact with his head.

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The All Blacks No.7 was handed a yellow card as the TMO reviewed the tackle. And after a few minutes, referee Wayne Barnes upgraded the challenge to a red card.

Cane cut a dejected figure as his head dropped into his hands after realising he won't be returning to the field. He became the first player ever to receive a red card in a Rugby World Cup final.

The 31-year-old became the first player handed a card in the final since fellow All Blacks star Ben Smith in 2015. The two yellow cards to the All Blacks was also the first time two cards were handed out in the first half of a final.

Sam Cane tackling Jesse Kriele in the World Cup final.
Sam Cane (pictured left) was sent off for this head-high tackle on Jesse Kriel in the World Cup final. (Image: Stan Sport)

Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper didn't disagree with the upgrade to a red card, but questioned whether being sent off for the remainder of the match was good for the contest. "I wonder what World Rugby are thinking. Perfect opportunity for the 20 minute red card...contest is completely ruined. It is a red card. He should be off the field."

England great Martin Johnson held a different view. "It is high and never a red for me," he said on BBC Sport. "These things happen." World Rugby has been clear cut for years on head-high tackles receiving a yellow or red card. However, many fans were divided over the incident with plenty claiming being sent off for the remainder of the game was harsh and it ruined the contest. Others felt the TMO had got the call right.

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Moments after the break, Cane's opposite number Siya Kolisi was also sent to the sin bin, following a head clash with New Zealand No.8 Ardie Savea. His offence was not upgraded. The only previous card in a World Cup final was a yellow for All Black Ben Smith in 2015, when New Zealand beat Australia to lift the trophy at Twickenham.

Sam Cane on the bench.
Sam Cane (pictured) was sent off in a controversial tackle in the World Cup final against South Africa. (Photo by David Ramos - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images) (David Ramos - World Rugby via Getty Images)

That record lasted until just the third minute in Paris, when All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell was sin-binned for a neck roll on South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi. Mbonambi was subbed off injured, as his leg was twisted badly in the ruck, but the bunker decided that was accidental and Frizell returned to the field.

Incredibly, the All Blacks pushed South Africa until the final moment. This is until an All Blacks knock-on saw South Africa win back-to-back World Cups with a 12-11 win. South Africa move past New Zealand as the nation with the most World Cup titles with four after the brilliant final.

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