Referee Tom Foley fractures ribs in accidental collision involving Freddie Steward

Tom Foley - Referee Tom Foley fractures ribs in accidental collision involving Freddie Steward
Tom Foley found himself sandwiched in a nasty collision

Tom Foley, the World Cup final television match official and Premiership referee, oversaw more than half of Exeter Chiefs’ win over Leicester Tigers a fortnight ago with three fractured ribs.

Foley was sandwiched in a nasty collision with Freddie Steward, the England full-back, and two Exeter tacklers, Ollie Devoto and Dafydd Jenkins, around four minutes before half-time of the league encounter on December 23 at Sandy Park.

Having halted the Tigers attack by inadvertently moving into the path of Steward, who was circling around from the opposite side of the breakdown to take an inside pass from Julián Montoya, Foley blew his whistle for a Leicester scrum.

Despite significant pain in the area and discomfort when breathing, he completed the half and then emerged for the second period, opting not to be replaced by one of his assistants. Subsequent scans, after Chiefs had run out 29-10 victors, confirmed that he had broken three bones in his rib cage.

With the injury making running difficult, Foley was ruled out of refereeing but adopted TMO duties for Harlequins’ visit to Newcastle Falcons last Friday and will do the same for the Champions Cup meeting between Leinster and Stade Français on Saturday.

He has started to run again, however, and hopes to be available to take the whistle in the Premiership at the end of January, in the last round of league matches before the competition breaks for the Six Nations.

Foley, who also needed stitches to a cut on his leg during Bath’s win over Exeter on December 2, stepped back from international officiating in the wake of last year’s World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand. He and his family were subjected to a torrent of online abuse after the decider in Paris, which was won 12-11 by the Springboks.

Steve Borthwick, the England head coach, cited the case of Foley, as well as the experiences of Wayne Barnes, who refereed the final, as he condemned this habit of spreading “hate” last week

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