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'Excellent character' Siva Naulago learns red card hearing verdict

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Bristol winger Siva Naulago has been banned following his Gallagher Premiership red card against London Irish. The Fijian was sent off in the Bears’ 49-32 defeat last Friday for a high tackle on Irish full-back Henry Arundell. A three-match suspension will be reduced to two games should he complete World Rugby’s coaching intervention programme. Naulago will definitely miss Bristol’s trip to Worcester on Friday and the home game with Wasps on February 25.

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An RFU statement read: “The case was heard by James Dingemans (chair) sitting with Martyn Wood and Phil Davies. Naulago accepted he had committed an act of foul play but challenged it had met the red card threshold. The panel upheld the charge and imposed a three-match ban.  He is free to play again on March 6. 

“The player indicated his intention to apply to World Rugby to access the coaching intervention programme and the panel gave permission for this request. In the event that the application is allowed and the programme completed, the player will miss two matches and will be free to play against Bath on March 5.”

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Naulago was curiously legally represented at the hearing by Dave Attwood, his Bristol teammate who has been studying law. In the written judgment accompanying the ban, it stated: “The tackle was intentionally made but the head contact was not intentional. The head contact was, however, reckless. This was because of the upright position of the player before the tackle.”

It added: “The player apologised to the London Irish No15 and repeated his apology at the hearing through Mr Attwood. The player is of excellent character, as proved by references from Lieutenant Colonel Tim Exton and by Mr Pat Lam. It is apparent that the player set himself very high standards and assists with the training and development of others.

“Although the player contested whether the red card threshold had been met, RFU regulation 19.11.10(a) provides that, as from January 1, 2022, a relevant consideration is ‘the presence and timing of an acknowledgement of foul play by the offending player’. The player admitted that he had committed an act of foul play. All other features justifying full mitigation of 50 per cent (on the six-week entry point) are satisfied.” 

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It was this time last year when Lam sang the praises of Naulago, a player that Bristol had recruited from Super League. “Everyone has the ability to learn. I know it is a stereotype, maybe a generalisation, but when you’re a serviceman it is all based on discipline.

“It takes special people to be disciplined, to listen to the instructions, and certainly in the army it is vital, but the fact is that he loves the game, he loves the guys around here, he has become very popular and he just wants to do so well for himself, his mates and the Bears. He is hungry to get better which is a great asset.”

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