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Aki banned by World Rugby

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World Rugby stick to their guns as Aki banned

Bundee Aki will not be available for Ireland’s World Cup quarter-final meeting against New Zealand after being handed a three week ban following a disciplinary hearing in Tokyo.

The player attended the hearing before an independent Judicial Committee chaired by Adam Casselden SC (Australia) joined by former international coach Frank Hadden (Scotland) and former referee Valeriu Toma (Romania). The hearing commenced at 7.30pm local time and lasted over three hours.

Aki was red-carded in Ireland’s 47-5 defeat of Samoa last Saturday for a high challenge which ended Ulupano Seuteni’s game, but the IRFU were hopeful of overturning the decision ahead of their meeting with Steve Hansen’s All Blacks on Saturday.

Their failure to do so means that Aki will play no further part at the World Cup, regardless of how far Ireland progress.

Aki and Ireland have the right to appeal the decision, and the IRFU responded to the verdict via a one sentence statement.

“The Ireland Management are disappointed with the outcome of Bundee’s hearing and will review the Judicial Committee’s written report once received,” the statement read.

The incident happened 29 minutes into the defeat of Samoa, with Aki’s arm making contact with the Samoa out-half’s head as the Ireland centre chased onto a loose ball.

Referee Nic Berry felt he had no choice but to send the player off.

“Direct contact to head with high degree of force. I’m not seeing enough to mitigate it down,” Berry said during the game.

The committee upheld the decision of the referee after hearing evidence from the player and his representatives, along with studying all available footage of the incident.

Ireland had flown in special legal counsel to represent Aki at the hearing. Derek Hegarty, a partner at law firm William Fry, previously played for Leinster.

Since Aki has been banned, Ireland are not allowed to replace him in their squad, meaning they are now down to a 30-man squad for the remainder of their World Cup campaign.

World Rugby explained their decision in a detailed statement.

“The committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point, which was introduced in 2017 to protect player welfare, deter high contact and prevent head injuries. This resulted in a starting point of a six-week suspension,” the statement read.

“Taking into account the mitigating factors that are considered in relation to sanction, including the player’s good disciplinary record, the committee reduced the six-week entry point by the maximum permitted three weeks, resulting in a sanction of three weeks, which equates to three matches in the context of Rugby World Cup 2019.”

Joe Schmidt’s centre options for the weekend are Garry Ringrose, Chris Farrell and Robbie Henshaw, who played his first minutes of this World Cup against Samoa after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Watch: The RugbyPass guide to Kumamoto.

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World Rugby stick to their guns as Aki banned