Bundee Aki's World Cup is over after being handed a three-match ban

The Connacht man was red-carded for a high tackle against Samoa on Saturday.

BUNDEE AKI’S WORLD Cup is over after he was banned for three games for the high tackle that saw him red-carded against Samoa.

The Connacht man was suspended at a disciplinary hearing in Tokyo on Monday night, where the IRFU attempted to have his red card overturned.

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland face the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday in Tokyo Stadium [KO 11.15am Irish time], and will do so without Aki.

ireland-v-samoa-pool-a-2019-rugby-world-cup-fukuoka-hakatanomori-stadium Adam Davy Aki was sent off in Saturday's win over Samoa. Adam Davy

The 29-year-old was red-carded for a high tackle on Samoa out-half UJ Seuteni in Ireland’s 47-5 win in Fukuoka on Saturday.

He was represented at this evening’s hearing by Derek Hegarty, a partner in Dublin firm William Fry, who the IRFU flew out to Japan to lead Aki’s case. 

Ireland sought to have Aki’s red card overturned at a hearing that lasted three-and-a-half hours in Tokyo.

However, the disciplinary committee upheld referee Nic Berry’s decision and dished out a three-game ban. As with all disciplinary cases, Aki and Ireland have the right to appeal the suspension within 48 hours of the full written decision.

In a brief statement, the IRFU expressed disappointment at the ban:

“The Ireland Management are disappointed with the outcome of Bundee’s hearing and will review the Judicial Committee’s written report once received.”

The entry point for Aki’s ban was six games due to World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point, but the Ireland centre had three matches shaved off because of his good disciplinary record.

Aki’s three-game ban will apply to World Cup games if Ireland beat New Zealand this weekend, but will otherwise count for this weekend’s quarter-final and then two Connacht games if Ireland are knocked out.

A World Rugby statement says the disciplinary committee decided the following in relation to Aki’s high tackle:

  • 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 

The independent judicial committee was chaired by Australia’s Adam Casselden SC, with former international coach Frank Hadden [Scotland] and former referee Valeriu Toma [Romania] also involved.

While Aki will be missed this weekend, Joe Schmidt does still have strong midfield options in his squad with Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell all fit and available for the clash with the All Blacks.  

“They’ve got great midfield options,” said All Blacks centre Anton Lienert-Brown earlier today. “They can use all four so I don’t think they will lose too much.

“Bundee definitely does bring something a little bit different, he’s got great footwork and he sort of brings that X-factor in that way. But it doesn’t matter who they put out there, their midfield is quality.”

World Rugby regulations state that a suspended player cannot be replaced in any 31-man squad, meaning Aki will remain with Ireland in Japan.

Ryan Bailey steps into the presenter’s chair where he’s joined by Murray Kinsella and Eoin Toolan on the line for Japan to tee up one of the biggest, if not the biggest week in Irish rugby: a World Cup quarter-final against back-to-back champions New Zealand.

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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