Ireland centre Bundee Aki appeared before an independent disciplinary committee via a Zoom call today, following his red card against England last Saturday.
Aki was sent off during the Guinness Six Nations final round match at the Aviva Stadium for a high tackle on England number 8 Billy Vunipola.
The red card was issued for an infringement of law 9.13 (Dangerous play during a tackle. A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously. Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders).
The disciplinary committee, which comprised Roger Morris (Wales), Frank Hadden (Scotland) and Stefan Terblanche (South Africa), heard evidence and submissions from Aki, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, and Aki’s legal counsel Derek Hegarty, as well as from Six Nations’ legal representative.
The Connacht star accepted that he had committed the act of foul play alleged (a dangerous tackle) and that it had warranted a red card.
The disciplinary committee accepted Aki’s explanation of the incident and that his intention had been to perform a legitimate tackle.
The disciplinary committee considered that, in the dynamic of the tackle, he had made contact with Vunipola just ‘inches too high’. They accepted that Aki’s actions had been reckless rather than deliberate or intentional.
The disciplinary committee determined the offence to warrant a mid-range entry point (which would have been its determination in any event, notwithstanding that the head contact involved in the foul play meant that a mid-range entry point was the mandatory minimum under World Rugby’s regulations).
The entry point was six weeks. The disciplinary committee identified no aggravating features.
In terms of mitigation, the disciplinary committee gave credit for Aki’s prompt acceptance that his actions had constituted foul play and been worthy of a red card, his attitude to the disciplinary process before and during the hearing, and his clear remorse and concern for the welfare of Vunipola.
However, Aki’s previous disciplinary record meant that the disciplinary committee did not allow the maximum 50% possible discount. The entry point sanction was accordingly reduced by two weeks so that the final period of suspension is four weeks.
The disciplinary committee determined that the suspension should cover Aki’s next four matches for Connacht in competitions organised by EPCR or Pro Rugby Championship (e.g. the Guinness PRO14 or the Rainbow Cup). Aki was reminded of his right of appeal.