Willemse gets slap on the wrist for eye-gouge

France lock Paul Willemse has been banned for just two games after being red-carded for an eye-gouge against Wales in Paris this past Saturday.

The South African-raised player was sent off in the second half of France’s dramatic 32-30 victory, which kept their hopes alive of claiming the 2021 Six Nations title.

Television match official Wayne Barnes had spotted the incident while reviewing France wing Brice Dulin’s try as it appeared that Willemse had made clear contact with Wales prop Wyn Jones’ eye.

After a discussion, referee Luke Pearce agreed that while the contact was not deliberate, it was still around the eye, which left him with no choice but to give Willemse his marching orders.

The disciplinary committee, which comprised Roddy Dunlop (Scotland), Donal Courtney (Ireland) and Becky Essex (England), heard evidence and submissions from Willemse and the France lock’s legal counsel, Louis Weston, as well as from the Six Nations’ legal representative.

The committee decided that due to ‘insufficient evidence’ that Willemse had made contact with the eye, as well as his attitude during the disciplinary process and clear remorse, that a four-week entry should be reduced to just two weeks.

The incident that saw Paul Willemse sent off
The incident after which Paul Willemse was sent off

‘Willemse accepted that he had committed an act of foul play, ie contact with the eye area [the “eye area” is defined as “anywhere in close proximity to the eye”] and that it had warranted a red card,’ a statement from the Six Nations read.

‘He did not accept that he had made contact with the eye [the “eye” is defined as “all tissues including the eyelids within and covering the orbital cavity”].

‘The disciplinary committee identified no aggravating features. In terms of mitigation, the disciplinary committee gave credit for Willemse’s prompt acceptance that his actions had constituted foul play and been worthy of a red card, his attitude to the disciplinary process before and during the hearing and his clear remorse. They reduced the suspension by two weeks so that the final period of suspension is two weeks.’

Willemse will miss this weekend’s Six Nations decider against Scotland as well as Montpellier’s match against Glasgow in the European Challenge Cup.

This comes in the same week where Ireland centre Bundee Aki was banned for four weeks for a dangerous tackle, while England prop Ellis Genge escaped any sanction despite clear video evidence of him throwing an elbow into the face of Ireland captain Johnny Sexton.