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Red-carded Sutherland learns fate on Scotland Six Nations opener

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Recent Lions Test series prop Rory Sutherland can breathe a sigh of relief after learning that his ban for last Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership red card for Worcester at Bath won’t affect his availability for the Scotland Guinness Six Nations opener at home to England on February 5. 

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Any club level disciplinary hearing at this time of the year leaves a player worried about whether they will be available or not to represent their country in the upcoming championship. 

However, Sutherland learned he has only been given a three-match ban, a sanction that can be reduced to just two matches provides he satisfactorily completes tackle school. If he does this he will be free to play for Worcester in their January 29 Premiership match at home to Northampton, allowing him to dust off the cobwebs before the Scots open their Six Nations campaign at Murrayfield the following weekend.

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Scotland front-rower Sutherland had received a red card for a dangerous tackle in the first half of last Sunday’s Premiership match at The Rec, contrary to World Rugby law 9.13. His case was heard by the independent disciplinary panel comprising Charles Cuthbert (chair), with Olly Kohn and Tony Wheat.

Cuthbert said: “The player accepted that he had committed an act of foul play in which his head had made direct contact with that of the opposing player. It was not accepted that the act merited a red card. The player sought to persuade the panel that when applying the head contact process (HCP) it was possible to apply mitigating factors on account of the ball carrier’s sideways step shortly before contact. 

“The panel considered the oral submissions from the club and the player as well as those of the RFU but did not find that the movement of the Bath player was sufficient to allow a reduction from red card to a yellow card. The charge was therefore upheld. The player had accepted that he committed an act of foul play, has a clean disciplinary record and was open and direct in response to questions asked.

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“The panel allowed 50 per cent mitigation accordingly. There were no aggravating features present and therefore the sanction remains three weeks. The player sought permission to apply to World Rugby to take part in the coaching intervention programme which the panel approved. If the player successfully completes the coaching course, he will be available for the game against Northampton on January 29.”

In the meantime, Sutherland will miss the upcoming Challenge Cup games that Worcester have at home to Toulon and away to Zebre.

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