Ireland waiting to make decision on appealing Aki's three-game ban

The Connacht man’s World Cup is over unless Ireland launch a successful appeal.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 15th 2019, 9:51 AM

IRELAND HAVEN’T YET made a decision on whether they will appeal Bundee Aki’s three-game ban at the World Cup, as they wait on a full written decision from the disciplinary hearing.

The Connacht man was suspended after a three-and-a-half-hour hearing in Tokyo last night, where the IRFU had attempted to have his red card against Samoa overturned. 

bundee-aki-and-robbie-henshaw-watch-on Aki has been banned for the rest of the World Cup. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Speaking at Ireland’s team hotel in Tokyo Bay this afternoon, assistant coach Simon Easterby expressed the set-up’s disappointment at last night’s decision as they face up to Aki being absent for Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand.

Once Ireland receive a written report from the hearing – which usually happens within 24 hours – they will have a 48-hour window in which they can appeal the ban.

“Until we’ve seen the report, we don’t know what rolls into that decision,” said Easterby when asked if Ireland will appeal. “We’re disappointed because Bundee is a big part of the squad, so we’re disappointed for him.

“He’s nowhere near a dirty player. He was sanctioned on the day, and we lost him for a large chunk of the game so we were down to 14 men. 

“So we’re disappointed with lots of different things, but mainly for Bundee. We’re lucky that we have a really good group of players in that midfield, but he’s one of those and we’d be disappointed if we don’t get to use him.

“He was really upset about the decision and rightfully so but until we’ve seen the report and know exactly how they came to that decision, we’ll probably have to wait until we see that before we make any further comment.” 

While they could still appeal the three-game ban, Ireland understand that the process of doing so would most likely not happen quickly enough for Aki to feature this weekend against the All Blacks.

“I guess at the moment we have to [plan without Aki], partly due to the time it could take,” said Easterby. “We like to have as much clarity as possible early in the week and we’re now at Tuesday, we had a travel day yesterday, so we’re a little limited in terms of time on the pitch training.

“We’ve been here before, we’ll deal with it, but at the moment you have to take the course of action that Bundee potentially won’t be available to us this weekend.”

Whether Ireland appeal or not, Aki will remain with the squad for the remainder of their World Cup campaign, training with the team and pushing his team-mates to perform.

Already, Aki is playing a role in Ireland getting ready to face his native New Zealand on Saturday.

“He’s a good trainer anyway,” said Easterby, “but he’ll be fully focused on trying to prepare the lads as best he can for Saturday. There’s no better man for knowing how the Kiwis work and how they might be approaching this.

“He’s a big part of this group and he’ll continue to be part of it no matter the outcome.”

Joe Schmidt is still left with strong midfield options for Saturday without Aki, as Chris Farrell, Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw are all fit and available. 

Henshaw’s return from a hamstring injury against Samoa last Saturday was certainly timely and he is expected to start alongside Ringrose at Tokyo Stadium this weekend.

“I guess in terms of a decision to select two guys in midfield this week with Bundee currently out of the equation, it means that Robbie coming back to fitness was great timing,” said Easterby.

“Neither Garry nor Chris played so they will be fresh too, so in that respect it’s really fortunate that the medics and Robbie worked so hard to get him back up to speed and getting through 80 minutes against the Samoans was great to see.”  

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