Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Wales captain Warburton gets three-week ban for sending off

Wales' World Cup squad have rallied behind their suspended skipper Sam Warburton after he was sent off during their agonising semi-final defeat against France.



Warburton will miss next Friday's third place play-off game following his appearance at a World Cup disciplinary hearing.

The independent judicial officer, England's Christopher Quinlan QC, hit Warburton with a three-week ban following his 18th-minute red card when he committed what was deemed a dangerous tip tackle on France wing Vincent Clerc.

Warburton admitted the offence at a hearing when evidence was presented by the player, Wales coach Warren Gatland and Warburton's legal representative Aaron Lloyd.

Tackles involving a player being lifted off the ground and tipped horizontally and then forced, or dropped, to the ground are illegal and constitute dangerous play, the International Rugby Board had previously ruled.

An IRB memorandum issued more than two years ago stated that such tackles “must be dealt with severely by referees and those involved in the off-field disciplinary process.”

Quinlan concluded that the offence was mid-range on the scale of seriousness, which has an entry point of six weeks.

He found that there were no aggravating features and there were compelling mitigating features, including the player's admission, outstanding character and disciplinary record and remorse, which saw the suspension cut in half.

Warburton will be available for the start of Cardiff Blues' Heineken Cup campaign, which begins with an away game against Racing Metro on November 11.

He has 48 hours to lodge any appeal.

Referee Alain Rolland's decision proved a cruel way for flanker Warburton, one of the tournament's top players, to make his World Cup exit, and it gained sympathy from his team-mates.

“He has to bounce back from it now,” former Wales captain and World Cup colleague Ryan Jones said.

Welsh scrum half Mike Phillips said: “If it wasn't for him we would not have come this far. It wasn't his fault at all.”

Had Warburton stayed on, then it is a reasonable bet that Wales would have reached their first World Cup final.

Even with 14 men for more than an hour, they lost only 9-8 and scored the game's only try through Phillips.