England’s Joe Launchbury has been cited for kicking Fijian centre Asaeli Tikoirotuma during Saturday’s 58-15 win over Fiji at Twickenham. Launchbury, who scored two tries on the day, will find out if whether he will receive a ban or not at a disciplinary hearing today.
Launchbury appeared to attempt to kick the ball in a ruck, but connected with the Fijian flyer’s head, contravening Law 10.4(c).
While it may have been accidental, World Rugby recently reiterated that certain types of dangerous contact with the head will be heavily policed and sanctioned. This exact offence was mentioned as being dangerous play, when players kick through the ruck at the ball recklessly.
“World Rugby’s number-one priority is player welfare and the laws of the game clearly state that the necks and heads of players are sacrosanct,” explained World Rugby Match Officials Selection Committee Chairman, Anthony Buchana.
“When it comes to foul play, the game is cleaner now than ever before but referees must constantly be alert to head-high hits.”
World Rugby went on to issue a reminder to elite referees, instructing them to be especially vigilant in this area. They used this video as an example of the kind of kicking that isn’t allowed at the breakdown, which is clearly exactly what Launchbury did. Accidental, but reckless and dangerous.
The 25-year-old could be banned for anything between four and 12 weeks, meaning he will certainly miss England’s next autumn internationals, against Argentina and Australia.
UPDATE: Launchbury received a 4 week suspension, reduced to 2 weeks. Full details here
DISCIPLINARY HEARING UPDATE STATEMENT:
Joe Launchbury, the England lock forward, appeared in London (Heathrow) before an independent Disciplinary Committee appointed by the Chair of the Six Nations Disciplinary Panel, having been cited by an independent Citing Commissioner for allegedly kicking an opponent in contravention of Law 10.4 (c) in the Autumn International between England and Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday 19 November 2016.
Mr Launchbury accepted that he had committed an act of foul play and that it would have warranted a red card. Accordingly, the Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Roger Morris (Wales), alongside Jennifer Donovan and David Martin (both Ireland), considered what would be the appropriate sanction.
Having viewed video footage of the incident, listened to evidence and representations from and on behalf of the player, and reviewed all of the other evidence, the Disciplinary Committee found that Mr Launchbury had acted recklessly rather than intentionally and that the offending merited a low-end entry point based on World Rugby’s scale of seriousness, which carries a four-week playing suspension.
The Disciplinary Committee further found that there were no aggravating factors and that there were a number of mitigating factors (including Mr Launchbury’s acknowledgement of wrongdoing, his previous clean disciplinary record and his good conduct at the hearing) such that his playing suspension be reduced by two weeks.
Mr Launchbury is therefore suspended from playing rugby for a total of two weeks, up to and including Sunday 4 December 2016.
Mr Launchbury was reminded of his right of appeal.