Alesana Tuilagi has been banned for five weeks for what has been called an act of foul play, contrary to Law 10.4(a). The incident occurred in the second minute of play against Japan, when tackler Harumichi Tatekawa unfortunately made contact with Tuilagi’s knee.
Tatekawa required some treatment but nothing was made of it at the time, with nobody seeing anything wrong, including the referee and his TMO, who has Hawkeye and is part of a team of three looking at foul play incidents.
Yet, independent Citing Commissioner Yves Thieffine (France) looked at the video footage and chose to cite Tuilagi for striking with the knee.
In the disciplinary hearing that followed, Tuilagi denied the act of foul play but after a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles, medical evidence, submissions from the player and his legal representatives, Judicial Officier Anthony Davies (England) upheld the citing, stating that Tuilagi had indeed committed foul play.
Davies determined that the offence was mid-range, which has an entry point of eight weeks.
“However, taking into account mitigating factors including his impeccable conduct during the hearing, good character and record over a long career and the absence of any off-field aggravating factors, the player was suspended for a period of five weeks,” the statement read.
Tuilagi will therefore miss Samoa’s last match, against Scotland. The ban will then chew into his time with Newcastle Falcons, as he is suspended up to and including 9 November 2015.
Tuilagi and has 48 hours in which to appeal from the time he received the full decision.
Support for Tuilagi on Twitter
Twitter was blowing up about the decision this morning, with former players, pundits and personalities all weighing in on what has been viewed as a shocking decision.
Sports presenter Sonja McLaughlan summed it up as “Criminal decision. Big man knocks over smaller man. End of,” while outspoken former Samoan player Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu tweeted “Last RWC, Tuilagi was fined $10,000 for wearing a mouthguard. Now hes banned for a bump off. @WorldRugby what is it youre trying to prove?”
Alesana Tuilagi banned for 5 weeks for something he and many other top ball carriers have done their entire careers. What is going on
— Rugbydump.com (@Rugbydump) October 7, 2015
New Zealand commentator and rugby pundit Scott Stevenson tweeted “If the public can vote for man of the match, can the public also vote to overturn this ludicrous Tuilagi suspension?” while player Ryan Lamb said “Tuilagi’s ban is ridiculous, just put a belt on and call it the tag rugby World Cup! #joke” before adding:
He’s bumped me like that on numerous times!! ???? #tuilangi
— ryan lamb (@ryan_lamb) October 7, 2015
You can view the video below, and of course, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the decision
You can read the full Alesana Tuilagi Disciplinary Hearing outcome here