Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Afoa bombshell

Ulster star could miss semi-final after being cited

Ulster tight-head John Afoa could be out of the Heineken Cup semi-final against Edinburgh on April 28.

The delight which followed Sunday’s quarter-final victory over number one seeds Munster turned to despair at the news that the former All Blacks prop has been cited by Citing Commissioner, England’s Peter Larter, who made his post-match complaint to the ERC.

Afoa is alleged to have made a dangerous tackle on Munster full-back Felix Jones in the second half.

If the citing is upheld, the minimum penalty is a three-match ban which would mean Afoa missing Ulster’s most important match since winning the Heineken Cup 13 years ago.

Ulster will know tomorrow after a hearing in Dublin before independent Judicial Officer, France’s Jean-Nöel Couraud.

The allegation against 2011 New Zealand World Cup winner Afoa is similar to that brought against his Ulster team-mate, Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris, for a alleged dangerous tackle on Welsh lock Ian Evans in the opening match of the 2012 RBS 6 Nations Championship at the Aviva Stadium.

That, too, was brought by the fixture’s Citing Commissioner, but his complaint to the Six Nations Disciplinary Committee was dismissed which meant the innocent Ferris was free to continue playing. A Six Nations statement made after Ferris’s acquittal said: “The committee, after careful analysis of the video evidence and consideration of the player's and his representative's explanation of the tackle, did not uphold the citing.”

Now Ulster’s fingers are tightly crossed in the hope that the charge against Afoa also is dismissed. The Kiwi, who joined Ulster in October, has been a hugely influential signing – outstanding in the scrum, a magnificent tackler and a great carrier of the ball.

Ulster’s 1999 Heineken Cup-winning prop Gary Leslie said: “He has done very well since coming here and you saw him at his best at the weekend.

“In the final 20 minutes he made a number of outstanding, low tackles to disrupt them. To lose him would be a bad blow.”

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