Motu Matu’u World Cup is effectively over after he was banned until October 26. The Samoa hooker appeared before an independent judicial committee having been cited for an act of foul play contrary to Law 9.13 (dangerous high tackle) in the World Cup match against Russia on Tuesday.
The committee, chaired by Wang Shao Ing (Singapore lawyer and former international player) with former international players John Langford (Australia) and Olly Kohn (Wales), heard the case, considering all the available evidence, including multiple broadcast angles and submissions from the player and his representative.
The committee, by a majority, deemed that the incident was an act of foul play and warranted a red card for the following reasons:
- it was a reckless high tackle which made contact with the head of the opposition ball carrier;
- a high degree of danger was reflected in the approach to the contact and follow-through;
- the factors against mitigation in the high tackle sanction framework were present, in that the tackler and the ball carrier were in open space and the tackler had a clear line of sight of the ball carrier;
- the majority of the committee were not satisfied that the change in height of the ball carrier was unreasonable and/or outside the estimation of the player. The player’s execution of the tackle resulted in a loss of control of the terms of contact with the opposition ball carrier.
The committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point, which was introduced in 2017 to mitigate the risk of head injuries, carrying a minimum six-match suspension.
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Having acknowledged Matu’u’s disciplinary record, good character and conduct at the hearing, the committee reduced the six-match entry point by three matches, resulting in a sanction of three matches. The sanction applies to the next three matches Matu’u is scheduled to play in.
Matu’u is not scheduled to play for Samoa against Scotland on September 30 due to undergoing the graduated return to play protocol. He will therefore miss Samoa’s final two pool matches and the quarter-final should Samoa progress, or his next scheduled match with his club London Irish on October 26.
The suspension will therefore end at midnight after the World Cup 2019 quarter-finals if Samoa qualifies or at midnight on October 26 if Samoa do not qualify for the quarter-finals, after which he is free to resume playing.
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