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RFU statement: Six Nations over for van der Merwe as appeal fails

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

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An appeal by Duhan van der Merwe to overturn the three-week ban that ruled him out of the remaining two Scotland games in the Guinness Six Nations has failed, meaning the original suspension handed down on Tuesday night stands. Van der Merwe was red-carded after tackling Kyle Rowe, his Scotland teammate, during last weekend’s Gallagher Premiership game in London between Worcester and London Irish.

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An RFU statement on Friday lunchtime read: “Duhan van der Merwe, the Worcester and Scotland player, appealed the three-week ban he received following a red card for reckless or dangerous play, contrary to World Rugby law 9.11, for an incident in the match against London Irish on March 5. 

“The disciplinary panel found that the player had sufficient time and opportunity to execute a lawful hand-off but failed to do so. The contact he then made to an opponent’s head was direct, at speed and involved a leading forearm all of which are factors pointing to high danger and a red card in the World Rugby head contact process (HCP).  

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Back in the Game – RFU
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Back in the Game – RFU

“The appeal panel heard the appeal on Thursday night, March 10, and upheld the decision of the first instance. The panel comprised James Dingemans (chair), Charles Cuthbert and Martyn Wood.

“Duhan van der Merwe will miss the following games: 12/03 vs Italy, 19/03 vs Ireland, 25/03 vs Gloucester. Subject to completing the World Rugby coaching intervention programme the player will be free again to play against Gloucester on March 25. The first instance of judgment can be seen here. The appeal judgment will follow shortly.”

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In the written judgment from Tuesday’s original hearing, van der Merwe accepted that he had committed an act of foul play but argued that this had not warranted the issue of a red card. He explained he had intended to execute a lawful hand-off and at the time had thought that he had connected with his hand. On behalf of van der Merwe, Worcester coach Steve Diamond made four core submissions:

  1. The player had executed a passive action to defend himself from the oncoming LI14;
  2. LI14 had been – improperly – head high and had the player not acted as he had, there would have been a head-on-head collision;
  3. The referee had not correctly applied the HCP and had not given sufficient weight to the comments of a very experienced TMO;
  4. He contrasted two cases on the World Rugby website, which he considered were similar and where red cards had not been issued.

Despite these claims, the panel was not satisfied that van der Merwe had demonstrated that the referee was wrong in his decision and the red card was accordingly upheld. With van der Merwe out of the Six Nations reckoning, Scotland coach Gregor Townsend on Thursday named Kyle Steyn to start on the left wing in this Saturday’s game away to Italy at Stadio Olimpico. The Scots finish their campaign away to Ireland in Dublin next weekend.

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