Samoa have come to the defence of Irish star Bundee Aki, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle in this morning’s World Cup clash.
However, Aki’s red card means the New Zealand-born midfielder, who is also of Samoan descent, looks set to miss the quarter-final matchup – most likely against the All Blacks – after referee Nic Berry deemed his tackle to be a red card offence after his shoulder made contact with the head of Samoa’s Ulupanu Seuteni in the 29th minute of the game.
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Samoan coach Steve Jackson was sympathetic towards Aki saying he shouldn’t be suspended for the tackle.
“Look, I don’t know if I should really comment on it,” Jackson said after the match.
“Again, it’s the mitigating factors again, whether they drop in height and those sort of things. As you all know, it’s the toss of a coin at the moment.
“Nic Berry refereed the game really well. I’ve known Bundee for a long, long time and what a great man he is, he’s got great character and he doesn’t go out there to do harm to anybody. Hopefully the powers that be see some sense and hopefully he gets to continue on in this tournament because he’s a great kid and he deserves it as much as most.”
Jackson added that Samoa will do whatever they can to make sure Aki plays in the quarter-finals.
“Again, as we’ve seen if there is any contact with the head, people have been penalised. We lost a couple of players but I hope no further sanction comes to him because I hope he can go further in this tournament and play.
“We’ll do everything we possibly can from a Samoan perspective to make sure that he gets on that field next week.
“People don’t go out there to make head contact. I think Joe said it in a coaches’ briefing before the tournament. Yes, we ended up with UJ having a HIA but there’s more concussions that come from tackles around the knee and people getting kneed in the head.
“Defenders have got to make decision within a split second. If you look at Bundee’s tackle again, UJ came with the ball at pace and I think he only had two or three metres to make a decision as to what sort of tackle he might put in. That’s what they’re asking the players to do now, in a spilt second you’ve got to make the right decision about what sort of tackle you’re going to make, which is extremely difficult.
“I wish Bundee all the best.”
Samoan captain Jack Lam echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying he hopes the punishment on Aki isn’t too severe.
“No hard feelings at all,” Lam said.
“We just said to Bundee how we feel. Hopefully it doesn’t get ruined by him missing a couple of weeks out of the game. Hopefully we get to see him in the finals.”
Thus far, players who have seen red in similar incidents have been banned for three games.
Ireland’s press conference after win over Samoa:
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