The Connacht back faced a lengthy hearing on Monday, and the committee decided to uphold the red card decision by referee Nic Berry, although Ireland can still appeal. This is despite the Irish Rugby Football Union’s claims that Aki did not have time to adjust his body, and that UJ Seuteni dropped his height.
However, World Rugby have said that the “committee did not accept that there was sufficient evidence of a sudden drop in the ball carrier‘s height.” Furthermore, they also said: “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.”
In light of this decision, there has been a sizeable reaction of social media from those who simply do not understand how Aki can receive the same ban as others have in the RWC.
The tackle was dangerous, and while it is mitigated by the fact that both players were charging towards a loose ball, some do understand that it was a red card. But what seems to be confusing many people is this blanket three-week ban that has been handed out to so many players.
Like most players this RWC who have been banned for high shots to the head, Aki received a six-week ban that was reduced to three, and that is understandable as it was not the worst offence this RWC. However, compared to the three-week bans that Italian props Andrea Lovotti and Nicola Quaglio received for a tip tackle on Duane Vermeulen, it does seem strange.
While that was a different tackle, and therefore harder to compare, the USA’s John Quill equally received a three-week ban for his high tackle to Owen Farrell.
In both cases, Farrell and Vermeulen were able to play on, which opens the debate as to whether the outcome should have a bearing on the decision. While Aki’s tackle had worse effects, there was no malice, or certainly far less than the other two offences.
This has been the reaction:
Intentionally target a guys head: 3 Weeks
Under 0.5seconds to go from competing for ball to tackle: 3 Weeks
They need to start considering intent and malice in these hearings.
It was a definite red but same punishment as deliberate shoulder shots??
— iancognito (@iancognito16) October 14, 2019
This feels ridiculous. The main problem with this is Aki couldn’t have done anything different…so it won’t be prevented from happening again. Bans should be there as a deterrent. Not sure what this solves!!
— ZippyChuck (@ZippyChuck) October 14, 2019
Is the only appeal saying it’s the same length as a@player being double teamed and dumped on their head? When they mentioned the damage to opposing player was minimal?
— Keego (@nkeegan) October 14, 2019
Tough call, no malice in the tackle, wrapped around his opponent. Accidental collision. Stockdale received a worse challenge imo. Aki has been solid all tournament, hard done by. Ireland are simmering nicely. Feels good , confidence is high. They're ready, roll on game day.
— Corner Back (@cornerback4fun) October 14, 2019
WR covering themselves in glory again ridiculous ban for that challenge no malice ball carrier going low
— James macMillan (@jimmacmillan2) October 14, 2019
Pile driving someone into the ground is apparently worth the same punishment as an accidental high tackle made in a split second
— WillKeepTheW (@Jakepaullogang0) October 14, 2019
A stunning example of failure to distinguish between the letter and the spirit of the rulebook: BBC Sport – Bundee Aki: Ireland centre's Rugby World Cup ended by three-match ban https://t.co/1JV9ktRw3L
— Mike Dolley (@MikeDolley) October 14, 2019
#bundeeaki #IrishRugby #IRFU MUST take legal action against this utterly idiotic 3 match suspension.
This is far too important to Aki's career and the success of their national team.
It is also, frankly, an embarrassment to the game of #RugbyUnion and #rugbyworldcup2019
— Michael Keating (@themikekeating) October 14, 2019
On reflection, this ban perhaps highlights where World Rugby went wrong when banning the Italian props. Aki’s ban seems in line with many other players who have committed dangerous tackles without malice so far this RWC. Realistically, Lovotti and Quaglio can deem themselves extremely lucky rather than Aki see himself as unlucky after this ordeal.
Even with 14 men for over 40 minutes, Ireland were too strong for Samoa at the Level-5 Stadium, as they won 47-5. They face the All Blacks in the quarter-final, but will be without their bulldozing centre.
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