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Bundee Aki's World Cup Over After Centre Is Hit With Ban

Bundee Aki's World Cup Over After Centre Is Hit With Ban

Bundee Aki has been handed a three-week ban for a dangerous tackle against Samoa on Saturday.

The punishment ends any chance that he will play a further part in the World Cup even if Ireland progress further than the quarter-final against New Zealand on Saturday.

The 29-year-old cannot be replaced by another player in the Ireland squad. Ireland do have 48 hours to appeal the decision.

Aki was shown a red card by referee Nic Berry for the tackle on Samoan out-half UJ Seuteni in the 29th minute of the pool stage game.

A statement from the judiciary panel on the decision reads:

In our opinion the referee was correct to issue the Red Card because, consistent with World Rugby’s High Tackle Sanction Framework, the Player executed an illegal high tackle on his opponent, the ball carrier, because his left shoulder came into clear contact with his opponent’s head.

The degree of danger to the Player’s opponent was high as there was forceful contact to his head requiring a head injury assessment and removal from the Match. In our opinion, there were no clear and obvious mitigating factors to warrant a sanction less than a Red Card.

The panel was persuaded by Aki's counsel Derek Hegarty that the tackle was not deliberate. However, it was deemed reckless.

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"The entry point for sanction for such mid-range offending is a 6 week suspension," the statement continues.

"The Judicial Panel found no aggravating factors; but found full mitigation in terms of the Player’s good disciplinary record, his contrition (expressed to his opponent), his good character and demeanour.

"Although the Player had disputed the fact that the Red Card test had been met, the approach taken (for this tournament alone) has been to treat that as full mitigation. Accordingly, the Judicial Panel found that the Player was entitled to a full discount of 3 weeks for mitigation."

If Ireland do not progress further than the quarter-final, Aki's ban will be served in the Pro14.

Ireland flew solicitor Derek Hegarty to Japan to act as their legal representative in the hearing.

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Four years ago, Sean O'Brien found himself in a similar situation. O'Brien had been cited for striking Pascal Pape during Ireland's final pool stage game of the 2015 World Cup. He was banned for a week and missed the quarter-final against Argentina.

Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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