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Bundee Aki ruled out of World Cup with three week ban after red card against Samoa

IRFU await full written report before making call to appeal suspension

Bundee Aki was sent off against Samoa (Adam Davy/PA)
Bundee Aki was sent off against Samoa (Adam Davy/PA)

Bundee Aki’s World Cup is all but over after he was hit with a three-week ban for his red card against Samoa on Saturday.

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The IRFU will have 48 hours to consider whether to launch an appeal to save his tournament. That window opens when World Rugby publish the full written decision.

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

As Aki has been suspended, no replacement can be flown out to join the squad.

Aki was given his marching orders 29 minutes into his side’s 47-5 win in Fukuoka after a dangerous high tackle on Ulupano Seuteni that forced the out-half from the field with a head injury.

Referee Nic Berry reviewed footage of the incident on the big screen before reaching for the red card.

After the game, Samoa coach Steve Jackson said he would support Aki in a bid receive a limited punishment but Ireland chief Joe Schmidt admitted he was only 'living in hope.'

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Aki was summoned before a three-person committee consisting of Australian lawyer Adam Casselden SC, former Scotland coach Frank Hadden ex-referee Valeriu Toma of Romania.

He sought to have the red card overturned, but after reviewing footage and hearing evidence from Aki and his solicitor Derek Hegarty, the committee upheld the decision.

According to a World Rugby statement, that call was based on six factors and said there was "no clear and obvious mitigating factors".

They wrote:

  • There was direct contact of the player’s left shoulder to the ball carrier’s head
  • The Judicial Committee did not accept that there was a low degree of danger
  • Although the tackle occurred quickly, the player’s tackle height was high and it was accepted he did not make a definite attempt to change his height in order to avoid the ball carrier’s head
  • The committee did not accept that there was sufficient evidence of a sudden drop in the ball carrier‘s height
  • The tackle was an attempted dominant tackle, rather than a reactionary tackle, and in any event there was no immediate release as the player wrapped his arms around the Samoa No.10
  • The player was in open space and had a clear line of sight before the contact
  • There are accordingly no clear and obvious mitigating factors

"No matter what you try to present, there is a very hard line and I certainly feel for Bundee," Joe Schmidt had said on Saturday. "He is pretty devastated.

"I think Bundee is upright, you can see both of his hands behind the shoulder blades of the player who is just starting to come up. It's all split-second stuff."

Aki was handed the mandatory minimum mid-range entry point of six-weeks, but based on his previously good disciplinary record that sanction was halved.

He will miss Saturday’s quarter-final against New Zealand and any further World Cup matches. If Ireland lose to New Zealand, then he will be suspended for two Connacht matches when he returns from Japan.

In Aki’s absence, Garry Ringrose is likely to return to the No 13 jersey to partner Robbie Henshaw, who made a timely return to the team in Saturday’s win.

All Black centre Anton Lienert-Brown said that Ireland have plenty of cover for Aki, but he said his former Waikato Chiefs colleague brings something different to the Irish mix that they’ll miss on Saturday.

"First of all, they've got great midfield options," he said. "They can use all four so I don't think they will lose too much.

"But, Bundee definitely does bring something a little bit different, he's got great foot-work and he sort of brings that X-factor in that way.

"But it doesn't matter who they put out there, their midfield is quality."

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