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Six Nations statement: England's Billy Vunipola banned after hearing

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

England No8 Billy Vunipola will miss his country’s opening two matches of their Rugby World Cup campaign following the outcome of the independent disciplinary hearing into his Summer Nations Series red card last Saturday – unless he attends tackle school to scratch the final match of his three-game ban.

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The back-rower was yellow-carded in the 53rd minute in Dublin for connecting his right shoulder with the head of the ball-carrying Ireland prop, Andrew Porter.

This sin bin sanction was soon upgraded to a red card offence following a review of the footage of the TMO bunker and it left Vunipola having to attend a virtually held disciplinary hearing on Tuesday evening.

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The verdict emerged on Wednesday morning and a Six Nations statement read: “England No8 Billy Vunipola appeared before an independent judicial committee via video link for an act of foul play contrary to law 9.13 in the Summer Nations Series match between Ireland and England on Saturday, August 19.

“The independent judicial committee consisting of Roddy Dunlop KC (chair, Scotland), Frank Hadden (Scotland) and Jamie Corsi (Wales) heard the case, considering all the available evidence and submissions from the player and his representative.

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“The player admitted that he had committed an act of foul play worthy of a red card. On that basis, the committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point for foul play resulting in contact with the head. This resulted in a starting point of a six-week suspension.

“Having acknowledged mitigating factors including his exemplary previous record, immediate apology and remorse, and noted the absence of any aggravating factors, the committee reduced the six-week entry point by three weeks, resulting in a sanction of three weeks (to be served as the following given the player’s upcoming schedule):

  • England vs Fiji, August 26,
  • England vs Argentina, September 9,
  • England vs Japan, September 17.

“The player may apply to take part in the coaching intervention programme to substitute the final match of his sanction for a coaching intervention aimed at modifying specific techniques and technical issues that contributed to the foul play. The player has the right of appeal within 48 hours of the issuing of the full written decision.”

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The ban for Vunipola meant he became the second England player to be suspended for the start of the Rugby World Cup in just over 12 hours.

It was late on Tuesday night when the decision on the Owen Farrell appeal emerged with the England skipper banned for four matches, a sanction that will see him sit out his team’s RWC games versus Argentina and Japan.

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Nickers 5 hours ago
All Blacks sabbaticals ‘damage Super Rugby Pacific when it is fighting for survival’

Sabbaticals have helped keep NZ’s very best talent in the country on long term deals - this fact has been left out of this article. Much like the articles calling to allow overseas players to be selected, yet can only name one player currently not signed to NZR who would be selected for the ABs. And in the entire history of NZ players leaving to play overseas, literally only 4 or 5 have left in their prime as current ABs. (Piatau, Evans, Hayman, Mo’unga,?) Yes Carter got an injury while playing in France 16 years ago, but he also got a tournament ending injury at the 2011 World Cup while taking mid-week practice kicks at goal. Maybe Jordie gets a season-ending injury while playing in Ireland, maybe he gets one next week against the Brumbies. NZR have many shortcomings, but keeping the very best players in the country and/or available for ABs selection is not one of them. Likewise for workload management - players missing 2 games out of 14 is hardly a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Again let’s use some facts - did it stop the Crusaders winning SR so many times consecutively when during any given week they would be missing 2 of their best players? The whole idea of the sabbatical is to reward your best players who are willing to sign very long term deals with some time to do whatever they want. They are not handed out willy-nilly, and at nowhere near the levels that would somehow devalue Super Rugby. In this particular example JB is locked in with NZR for what will probably (hopefully) be the best years of his career, hard to imagine him not sticking around for a couple more after for a Lions tour and one more world cup. He has the potential to become the most capped AB of all time. A much better outcome than him leaving NZ for a minimum of 3 years at the age of 27, unlikely to ever play for the ABs again, which would be the likely alternative.

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