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Sent off Alec Hepburn punished for dumping Joe Marler on his head

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bob Bradford/Camera Sport via Getty Images)

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Exeter prop Alec Hepburn has been suspended following last Saturday’s red card incident which saw him dump England loosehead Joe Marler on his head shortly before half-time in the Chiefs’ narrow Gallagher Premiership defeat at defending champions Harlequins. 

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BT Sport pundit Ugo Monye describe the manner in which Marler was tip tackled as reminiscent of the way Brian O’Driscoll was dumped out of the Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005. No All Blacks player suffered a suspension for that incident but times have changed in the 16 years since then.

TMO reviews at The Stoop last Saturday resulted in referee Ian Tempest brandishing the red card to Hepburn after stating: “I am not looking at mitigation because No1 Exeter has released him and dropped him and hasn’t got a duty of care for Harlequins No1. That is going to be a red card for Exeter No1. A clear lift and a drop, no regard for his safety, he lands on his head, it will be a red card for No1.”

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That sending-off resulted in a disciplinary hearing to review the tip tackle which was contrary to World Rugby law 9.18. Hepburn’s case was heard on papers by the independent disciplinary panel comprising Charles Cuthbert (chair) and Tony Wheat. 

Panel chair Cuthbert said: “The player accepted that he had committed an act of foul play and that the act merited the award of a red card. The panel agreed with the submissions of both the club and the RFU that the appropriate entry point was low end. 

“Allowing 50 per cent mitigation on the basis of his acceptance of the charge, his clean record and his engagement with the process, the panel imposed a three-week suspension which means the player is free to play on February 1.”

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This length of suspension means Hepburn will now sit out the Exeter matches versus Glasgow and Montpellier in the Heineken Champions Cup over the next two weekends as well as missing the January 29 Premiership match at London Irish.

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