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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Owen Williams banned for six weeks for making contact with Luther Burrell's eyes

Wales will be without the services of Leicester Tigers flyhalf Owen Williams after he was last night banned for six weeks for making contact with the eyes of Northampton Saints back Luther Burrell in the Aviva Premiership semi final.

The charge against Williams for acts contrary to good sportsmanship, contrary to Law 10.4.M, was heard yesterday evening. Williams pleaded guilty after having made contact with the eye(s) or eye area of Burrell in the 64th minute.

Williams was given a six-week ban that leads up until the 1st September 2014. He is free to play again on 2nd of September. He will miss the three upcoming matches for Wales as well as three pre-season games for Leicester Tigers.

The 22-year-old flyhalf was on track to earn his first ever Wales cap after an impressive season with the Tigers, but that moment will have to wait until later in the year, if all goes to plan.

Wales are set to meet the Springboks in two Tests in South Africa, on June 14 and June 21. 

The incident wasn't clearly visible when watching live, and no replays were shown at the time. You can however see Williams leaning and making contact with Burrell, which is obviously where the offence occurred, especially judging by the England center's reaction. 

This is a short clip, but other angles would have been available for the disciplinary hearing.

Posted at 9:04 am | 29 comments

Posted in Big Hits & Dirty Play

Viewing 29 comments

DanKnapp May 28, 2014 11:33 am

It'll be interesting to see some better angles. 6 weeks seems extremely low for gouging, so I guess that they thought it was something else? It'll be interesting to see more.

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DW May 28, 2014 12:27 pm

... didn't look too obvious... especially compared to the Ed O'Donoghue incident where he got off scot free for washing his hands in a guys face. I know it was judged there wasn't contact with the eyes in that case but he was still poking his fingers around in another guys face and players have been banned for a heck of a lot less!

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DrG May 28, 2014 1:40 pm

Difference is O'Donoghue had a heck of a lot of support from medical teams AND the 'victim'..

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DW May 28, 2014 2:31 pm

Even with all of that support, how can you get off for poking around in someone's face? It's like a tip tackle where the legs go above the horizontal but gets put down safely. Those tacklers still get banned despite common sense saying nothing is wrong.

Anyway, would still like to know what Williams really did as the video isn't clear at all. No excuse for making contact with the face (if he did) on a guy standing over a ruck doing nothing

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DrG May 28, 2014 4:51 pm

I think we agree, I see you're merely commenting on the laws side of things, so you're quite correct, whereas I'm commenting from the 'common sense' side of things, so I'm technically incorrect in the eyes of the law (no pun intended...)

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Tintin May 28, 2014 12:51 pm

6 weeks for gouging....extremely low....

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The Green Mafia May 28, 2014 12:56 pm

So on the O'Donoghue incident there's clear proof of his intentions (what should really count. If I intend to shoot a person, the fact that I missed doesnt make it all alright, just makes me a pathetic failure), and yet he goes unpunished because "the victim lacked reaction to the gouging, indicating that it didn't occur" (btw, still think this is the biggest fallacy ever, as everyone reacts differently, even when they sit still). Yet on this instance, where people can't actually see anything other than williams in the vicinity of burrel, he gets a 6 games, making him miss the June internationals? How am I to take the IRB disciplinary council seriously? You want to ban williams, go for it, he did plead guilty after all, but dont make a mockery out of the process for letting o'donoghue go unpunished

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Andy May 28, 2014 1:38 pm

Neither of these cases were heard by IRB discipline. The O'Donoghue case came under SANZAR control (and him getting off with no punishment was a disgrace). This case was heard by RFU.

6 week ban would suggest that this was considered to be "contact with the eye area" rather than a full on gouge. The original entry point would have been higher before being reduced by mitigating factors (guilty plea, presumably he was contrite in the hearing, probably a decent record).

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Colombes May 28, 2014 1:42 pm

Another example that 'eye-gouging' sanctions can vary from the simple to the triple, whether u come from a country/federation or another... #hypocrisy

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DrG May 28, 2014 1:46 pm

Guys guys guys.. think about it, I know we cannot go by 'Victim reaction' alone - see Bryan Habana video a few days ago, but the fact is here we see a clear reaction from Burrell and obviously more evidence.

Ed O'Donoghue:
Video evidence was damning
Medical team said nothing happened
'Victim' said nothing happened

This however is entirely different, video evidence we have here isn't great, however the player reaction said a lot more. As for the medical team and Burrells point of view after the game, I don't know...

I think the law has probably been used quite well in both incidents, it appears no one in Ed's incident wanted any further action, whereas here it appears there is a reaction and perhaps words were put on paper later on - Or NOT written by the Saints in Williams defence...

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browner May 28, 2014 5:35 pm

the offence is contact with the eye area .....

TBH I dont care what Medical or victim said ( he wouldve had his eyes closed gteed) that WAS definately "in the eye area" and SANZAR have shamefully conspired to send the wrong message the sport.

I smell the stench of politics , not integrity in that decision.

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DrG May 29, 2014 12:47 am

Again though, that rule was brought in; I suspect, to punish those who have attempted to gouge, not those that stick a hand in someones face as they tussle.

It's a bit like the tip tackle thing. It was brought in to punish potentially neck damaging tackles and now tackles such as the one in Bastareauds most recent video get incorrectly punished.

Hand offs, often involve a hand to the face - That is hands/fingers in the eye area - is banning a player who performs a hand off the next step?

I think the governing bodies need to do themselves and everyone a favour and work out what it is they're trying to apply the laws to and why. As I said above, if we go to the letter of the law, a hand off to the face should incur a ban.

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Eddie-g May 28, 2014 2:14 pm

For anyone wondering why such a lenient punishment for gouging... he wasn't done for gouging. He was sanctioned for contact with the eye area, which while still serious, is a lesser offense.

And 6 weeks, I think, is a pretty standard ban in such cases.

The interesting thing in this case - as with the Adriaan Strauss tip-tackle - is that for both, the impact of the ban is missed internationals. In Strauss's case, he'd apparently be due around $10,000 for each bok appearance.

And this is where the citing blokes need to really be sure about applying the rules consistently - if a player has copped an unjustifiably long ban, or the process has been botched, the players' unions should be suing on their behalf. The lost earnings from these bans can get pretty large, and one day, I'd reckon one of these decisions will be challenged in a court.

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finedisregard May 28, 2014 2:27 pm

Interesting. The way it works in professional American sports is that they rarely ban players but give them monetary fines instead. Of course most every player is a millionaire. 30 large sounds like a lot.

So "making contact with eyes" is like a less despicable form of gouging? I'm not sure I get it. If the PTB are serious they should produce a written guideline for degrees of offense and the appropriate punishment. The citing commission process is so inconsistent.

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Eddie-g May 28, 2014 4:05 pm

In the NFL, fines and bans have to fit within the contract between the players union and the nfl. That's the start point. And any ban that seems excessive will be challenged by the union as being in breach of that contract. There's a case now involving Robert Mathis where he's facing a 4 game ban, he is unhappy about it, but the union is not planning to contest it. So a pretty good sign his punishment is fair.

Anyway, gouging versus hands in the eye area is like spear tackle versus tip tackle. Same broad category of offense, but the former is more serious and results in a harsher punishment.

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DrG May 28, 2014 5:02 pm

Interesting point Eddie - regarding earnings, courts etc.

I suppose the only argument is that the player is perhaps incapable of immediately playing the game within the confines of the law and is therefore a danger to their opponents. Which is perhaps where they could find an angle.

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eyesore May 28, 2014 9:48 pm

Strange how muted the response is. Are we dabbling in double standards when it comes to which player commits this transgression. I was expecting the word 'thug' to be used at least once or twice or is that only for frogs and saffas.

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DrG May 29, 2014 12:51 am

Kind of difficult to throw around the word 'Thug' when we have 9 seconds of footage all from one angle and the incident appears to occur within the first 4-5 seconds..

I mean I'm all for calling the guy a cheating gouging thug, but at the end of the day I'm only going to do it when I can see it - no pun..

For the time being, I support his ban and cannot really say much more.. can you?

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Canadian content May 28, 2014 10:41 pm

Really dumb, Richard cockerills tutelage all over that

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Kornboy130 June 11, 2014 4:33 pm

Tutelage to gouge? Or tutelage of the crocodile roll whilst having his own head twisted and yanked by a Saints player?

Essentially my question is: Are you being really stupid and claiming Cockerill would train his player to gouge which is of no benefit to his team or are you questioning the legality of the crocodile roll in the modern game?

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Oliver May 29, 2014 1:09 pm

and people wonder why French fans are "paranoid"....

- Williams pleads guilty to gouging: 6 weeks ban
- Dupuy pleads guilty to gouging: 6 months ban

Or how about Attoub?? 70 weeks ban, with a picture as sole evidence, no video whatsoever.

I already said what I thought of the leniency towards Donoghue, I don't think I need to add anything. The double standards are just disgusting. Or please explain when players plead guilty to the same offence, they get such different treatment.

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nathan May 29, 2014 4:44 pm

First and foremost, i have to own up to accidentally hitting the like button on your post, i didn't mean too.

It's pretty easy why those two cases are different: one charge was gouging, the other making contact with the eye area - one carries more punishment over the other.

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Oliver May 29, 2014 6:20 pm

nevermind Nathan, I'm not here to collect "likes".

So just a few things:
1. many other posters before me, who apparently aren't French, talked of inconsistency and double standards. it's just plain to see.
2. Donoghue also was charged for "contact with the eye area", it was clearly visible, yet he received no ban. so why Williams? or was it a gouge then?
3. finally, when an English player gouges not one but two players in a game (Dylan Hartley), he gets a 6 months ban... Attoub GOT A YEAR AND A HALF! three times that! Solely on the basis of a picture.

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DrG May 29, 2014 7:59 pm

Oliver, I don't know but it seems that say Hartley, Williams and O'Donoghue were somewhat spur of the moment incidents:

- O'Donoghue was just a scrap and a hand on the face.
- Williams, I don't know exactly, hard to see.
- Hartley, I can't quite remember this incident. (thats not an excuse to not include so much)..

Whereas the fact Ferris was targeted by Dupuy and Attoub suggest it was more premeditated, which is where the reasons for the large ban could stem from...

Plus, I'm not suggesting it's clear cut, but that picture of Attoub knuckle deep in Ferris eye was pretty horrific and if the medical team and Ferris both kicked up a big fuss then I can see where the big ban again could come from.

Either way, I don't like the idea of ANY contact with any players eye/eye area although as stated above, O'Donoghue looked like more of a hand in the face, much like any hand off - I made a comment about hand offs earlier...

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Oliver May 30, 2014 8:12 am

Well I thought it was two, but apparently Dylan Hartley gouged THREE players in one game. Hardly spur of the moment.....
( http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2007/apr/20/rugbyunion.sport ) on top of that, he's a repeat offender.

Still the ban was much longer for Attoub, and although the picture is damning, we all know one image can be misleading. Anyways nothing can explain 6 months on one hand, and 18 months on the other.

The only thing consistent thing in these rulings is the inconsistency and it's infuriating.

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DrG May 30, 2014 1:15 pm

Well to be totally fair, Hartley is a bit of a moron, or was.. He seems to have cleaned his act up a little bit (I think)...

Well. yes pictures can be misleading, but I cannot possibly see what the alternative could be with the Attoub picture... I mean the only way his finger was not in Ferris eye was if he was missing the end of it.

I do know what you mean, but personally rather than reducing the bans the likes of Dupuy and Attoub received I'd like to see increased bans for the others.

That being said, I couldn't happily 100% say Williams gouged Burrell, nor would I say O'Donoghue gouged or attempted to gouge at all, so a ban for Williams but never a ban for O'Donoghue.

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Guest May 30, 2014 5:01 pm

there is of course the question of did Williams plead guilty because he knows he (presumably accidentally but recklessly) made contact or because he know the entry level sanction of 12 weeks (taking his ban up to the Autumn Internationals) would get reduced to 6 (only missing pre-season and maybe the first actual match).

Plea bargain rather than a true admission

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Cymro May 30, 2014 5:28 pm

I would like you to wait until the minutes of owen's case are released, this will then prove to you that no gouging took place. Also that the law's regarding eye contact need addressing. Hopefully the people who have made harsh comments, will have the decency to retract them.

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DrG June 01, 2014 9:38 am

I don't necessarily disagree with you, however Burrell was upset about something... So did gouging 'nearly' take place?

If someone just put their hands on my face in a ruck then I don't kick up a fuss - It's happened before, but if someones fingertips were around my eyes I might kick up more of a fuss!

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