Ireland centre Bundee Aki has been handed a three-match ban which essentially rules him out of the remainder of the World Cup.
Aki was red-carded during Ireland’s last pool match against Samoa on Saturday for a dangerous tackle on flyhalf Ulupano Seuteni.
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Aki attended a disciplinary hearing on 14 October having received the red card from referee Nic Berry for an act of foul play contrary to Law 9.13 (dangerous tackle). The hearing went on for well over three hours, after Ireland flew in legal counsel as they sought to have the red card overturned.
However, having considered all the angles of the incident together with evidence from the player and his representatives, the committee upheld the decision of the referee.
The committee considered the high-tackle sanction framework and decided the following:
- There was direct contact of the player’s left shoulder to the ball-carrier’s head.
- The Judicial Committee did not accept that there was a low degree of danger.
- Although the tackle occurred quickly, the player’s tackle height was high and it was accepted he did not make a definite attempt to change his height in order to avoid the ball-carrier’s head.
- The committee did not accept that there was sufficient evidence of a sudden drop in the ball-carrier‘s height.
- The tackle was an attempted dominant tackle, rather than a reactionary tackle, and in any event there was no immediate release as the player wrapped his arms around the Samoa No 10.
- The player was in open space and had a clear line of sight before the contact.
- There are accordingly no clear and obvious mitigating factors.
Therefore, the committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range six-week entry point suspension, but taking into account the player’s good disciplinary record, the six-week entry point was reduced by the maximum permitted three weeks, resulting in a sanction of three weeks, which equates to three matches in the context of Rugby World Cup 2019.
Aki will now miss Ireland’s quarter-final against the All Blacks and all their subsequent matches if they do progress further in the tournament. However, if Ireland lose to New Zealand, he will serve the rest of his ban in the PRO14.
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