Stade Francais scrum half Julien Dupuy had his 24 weeks ban reduced to 23 weeks at an Independent Appeal Committee sitting at Heathrow Airport yesterday.
Dupuy, a French international, had been banned after being found guilty of eye gouging on Stephen Ferris during Ulster’s 23-13 win at Ravenhill last month
It’s difficult to understand the rationale behind reducing the ban by one week purely on a technicality, but it could have been worse for some people in the sport feared he might have had the ban significantly reduced.
In the end, good sense and justice prevailed and it should act as a major deterrent to those prepared to take the law into their own hands.
Gouging, sadly, remains a part of rugby although the most outrageous side of the incidents that have been identified and punished over recent months has not necessarily been the brutality itself, but the reaction of the players’ bosses.
While the debate has been focused on the length of bans and a call for consistency in punishment, the most sickening fact has been the comments made by those in charge of the players involved.
Surely the sport cannot begin to even think about cleaning up the problem of gouging while this type of ‘shrug the shoulders’ attitude prevails.
Only last summer Peter De Villiers, the South Africa coach, responded to Schalk Burger’s eight weeks ban by claiming he saw nothing wrong and that it was accidental.
His remarks at the time were seen as another ill-informed judgement by a coach who has
faced much criticism during his tenure.
But then Max Guazzini, president of Stade Francais, takes some beating.
He claimed the ban on Dupuy was “excessive, very political and anti-French,” insisting the ERC wanted to make an example of both Stade Francais and the French team.
Confirming the reduction of the original ban, a statement released by the ERC last night said:
“The independent Appeal Committee, chaired by Professor Lorne Crerar (Scotland) and also comprising Rod McKenzie (Scotland) and Pat Barriscale (Ireland), found that Mr Dupuy had demonstrated that the original decision had been in error only in a limited and technical manner, by taking into account the need for deterrence when determining entry point rather than as an aggravating factor.
“The independent Appeal Committee agreed with the independent Judicial Officer that the offence was at the top end in the level of seriousness but determined that the original decision should be varied by reducing the suspension by one week to a period of 23 weeks.”