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Punishment meted out for 'head-high Challenge Cup assault'

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

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Former Argentine sevens player Axel Muller has been banned for five matches following his ugly red-carded hit last Friday night for Brive on Saracens’ Ben Harris in the European Challenge Cup. Harris, who had hooked up with the London club after making his own name on the sevens circuit with England, was illegally taken out after popping a try-creating pass to Jamie George. 

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Harris somehow managed to get back in the game after the late shot to his head by Muller and he was to complete the eight tries to one, 55-5 win by running in the final Saracens try just five minutes after the red-carded tackle. 

The 28-year-old Muller, who won a single Argentina Test cap against Uruguay in July 2015, is in his fourth season with Brive after initially moving to France to play a season each at Toulon and Oyonnax. However, he will now miss the remainder of his current club’s battle against Top 14 relegation following his ban which was initially set to be ten games before 50 per cent mitigation was applied.   

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The brutal challenge on Harris became the talk of social media in the aftermath of last weekend’s one-sided match, with BT Sport rugby commentator Nick Mullins perfectly capturing the mood with a tweet that read: “Brutal goings-on in Brive. Switching between Galway and that game where the French are being heavily beaten by Saracens and treading the line of legality. There’s just been a red for a head-high assault.”

Scottish referee Mike Adamson had no hesitation in brandishing the red card after reviewing the footage of the Muller tackle on the stadium screen in Brive and the Argentine has now learned his punishment six days later following a disciplinary hearing that was held on Thursday.

The EPCR statement which delivered the hearing outcome read: “The CA Brive full-back, Axel Muller, has been suspended for five weeks following an independent disciplinary hearing by video conference arising from his club’s EPCR Challenge Cup round five match against Saracens at Stade Amedee-Domenech. Muller was sent off by the referee, Mike Adamson (Scotland), in the 71st minute of the match for tackling the Saracens replacement wing, Ben Harris, in a dangerous manner in contravention of law 9.13.

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“Samantha Hillas (England, chair), Andrea Caranci (Italy) and Val Toma (Romania) considered video imagery of the incident and heard submissions from the player, who accepted the red card decision, from the player’s legal representative, Neil Robertson, from the CA Brive head coach, Jeremy Davidson, and from the EPCR disciplinary officer, Liam McTiernan. 

“The committee upheld the red card decision, finding that Muller had committed an intentional and dangerous act of foul play that warranted a red card. It then determined that the offending was at the top end of World Rugby’s sanctions and ten weeks was selected as the appropriate entry point. 

“Due to the player’s clear disciplinary record and his guilty plea, and as there were no aggravating factors, it was decided to grant the full 50 per cent mitigation and the committee, therefore, reduced the sanction by five weeks before imposing a five-week suspension. Muller will be free to play pending confirmation of CA Brive’s forthcoming match schedule and pending any application for a World Rugby coaching intervention.”

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