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URC statement: Bundee Aki cops hefty ban for his latest red card

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Bundee Aki faces missing the entire Ireland Autumn Nations Series after he was handed a hefty ban following his latest red card. The 32-year-old Test-level midfielder, who started the series-clinching win away to the All Blacks in July, has been suspended for eight weeks, a punishment that rules him out of all three of his country’s November games.

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His only silver lining was that the last week of his ban can be scrapped if he completes the World Rugby coaching intervention programme, freeing him to be considered for selection for the November 19 game in Dublin versus Australia.

However, it would be unlikely that Aki would be parachuted straight into the Ireland team at that stage having not had a match since last Saturday’s URC defeat for Connacht away to the Stormers. A URC statement read: “The disciplinary process related to Bundee Aki’s red card for Connacht in the BKT United Rugby Championship round two game against DHL Stormers on Saturday, September 24, has resulted in an eight-week ban.

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“After an act of foul play against Stormers No11, Seabelo Senatla, referee Gianluca Gnecchi showed the player a red card in the 60th minute of the game under law 9.20(a) – a player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul.

“In his responses to the judicial officer overseeing the disciplinary process, Pamela Woodman of Scotland, the player accepted he had committed an act of foul play which warranted a red card. Woodman determined that the player’s actions towards Senatla were reckless and took into account, among other things, the speed, force and high degree of danger in the player’s actions.

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“Woodman determined that had it been based on this conduct alone, the offending would have been categorised as mid-range on the scale of seriousness. However, Woodman also considered the player’s actions and demeanour towards the referee in connection with the issue of the red card, which she found did not meet the expected standards of conduct or respect.

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“This was also taken into account (in accordance with URC’s disciplinary rules) in determining that the player’s offending was at the top-end on the scale of seriousness, which warranted an entry point sanction of ten weeks. The judicial officer then considered if there were any mitigating factors and found that the player’s acceptance that he had committed an act of foul play (during the off-field disciplinary process), expression of remorse, apologies to both the opposing player and referee, and willingness to engage with his club coaching staff on a plan to address this issue, were relevant mitigating factors.

“These mitigating factors warranted a reduction in the sanction of four weeks. The player’s previous suspensions for red cards in 2019 and 2021 for foul play involving head contact, as well as his suspension and warning for previous conduct relating to interactions with referees, were considered aggravating factors, which the judicial officer decided warranted a further two weeks of sanction.

“As a result, the player will be suspended for a period of eight weeks. Should the player complete the coaching intervention programme then the sanction will be reduced by one week.

AKI’S MISSED GAMES:
Bulls vs Connacht – September 30, BKT URC
Connacht vs Munster – October 7, BKT URC
Connacht vs Leinster – October 14, BKT URC
Connacht vs Scarlets – October 21, BKT URC
Ospreys vs Connacht – October 29, BKT URC
Ireland vs South Africa – November 5, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland vs Fiji – November 12, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland vs Australia, November 19, Autumn Nations Series (this will be scratched if Aki successfully completes the head contact process coaching intervention)

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