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Italian rookie Rizzoli has World Cup hopes scuppered by lengthy ban

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Tullio Puglia/Federugby via Getty Images)

Rookie Italian loosehead Luca Rizzoli has had his Rugby World Cup hopes dashed by a lengthy ban following an independent URC disciplinary hearing. The soon-to-be 21-year-old had been enjoying his breakthrough season with Zebre Parma, doing enough earlier in the campaign to merit inclusion as one of four uncapped players when Kieran Crowley named his 34-strong Azzurri Guinness Six Nations squad in January.

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The tournament passed by without the front rower making his Test debut, but his ambition of going on to challenge for a spot in Italy’s World Cup squad has now been ended due to suspension for a foul play incident that the URC have not fully explained in their media release announcing the ban.

It appears that Rizzoli got in trouble for a last-minute incident in last weekend’s narrow home league defeat to Cardiff, but officials haven’t specified exactly what the player did to contravene law 9.12. Whatever took place, it was enough to merit a mid-range sanction of 18 games which was reduced to nine on mitigation.

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However, with just two club games remaining in the Zebre season, the remaining seven matches of his ban will cover all four of Italy’s World Cup warm-up matches and three of their four pool games at the finals in France.

A statement read: “The disciplinary process related to Luca Rizzoli’s citing in the BKT United Rugby Championship round 16 game against Cardiff on March 24 has resulted in a nine-week suspension.

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“The citing commissioner in charge reported the Zebre Parma player for an act of foul play related to law 9.12 – A player must not physically or verbally abuse anyone. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to, biting, punching, contact with the eye or eye area, striking with any part of the arm, shoulder, head or knee(s), stamping, trampling, tripping or kicking.

“The incident occurred in the 79th minute of the game. The citing report was brought to a full disciplinary panel hearing on Thursday. The panel comprised Kathrine Mackie (chair, Scotland), John Kirk (Scotland) and David Humphreys (Ireland).

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“In the player’s responses to the panel, he accepted that he had committed an act of foul play and that it met the red card test. On review of the evidence, the panel determined that the act of foul play was deliberate and intentional. A mid-range entry level for sanction was agreed upon leading to a suspension of 18 weeks.

“Taking into account the player’s young age and inexperience, clean disciplinary record, his remorse and acceptance of his actions, the panel allowed for maximum mitigation of 50 per cent to reduce the suspension to nine weeks.”

Fixtures Luca Rizzoli is unavailable for:
Bulls vs Zebre Parma, April 15 – URC
Lions vs Zebre Parma, April 22 – URC
Scotland vs Italy, July 29 – Pre-RWC Test
Ireland vs Italy, August 5 – Pre-RWC Test
Italy vs Romania, August 19 – Pre-RWC Test
Italy vs Japan, August – 26 Pre-RWC Test
Italy vs Namibia, September 9 – RWC
Italy vs Uruguay, September 20 – RWC
Italy vs New Zealand, September 29 – RWC

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