Otago Daily Times

Three week ban for Tu’un­gafasi

RUGBY

- Sports · Rugby · Greater Auckland · New Zealand national rugby union team · Australia · Brisbane · Australia national rugby union team · Argentina · Argentina national football team · World Rugby · Ipswich Town F.C. · New Zealand · Uruguay National Football Team · Uruguay · Scott Barrett · Sam Whitelock · Michael Cheika

AUCK­LAND: All Blacks prop Ofa Tu’un­gafasi has been banned for three weeks fol­low­ing his red card in last week­end’s loss to Aus­tralia in Bris­bane.

A Sanzaar ju­di­cial hear­ing found Tu’un­gafasi guilty of con­tra­ven­ing Law 9.13, which states: ‘‘A player must not tackle an op­po­nent early, late or dan­ger­ously’’, af­ter Tu’un­gafasi made high con­tact with Wal­la­bies winger Tom Wright in the first half of the Bledis­loe Cup fi­nale on Satur­day.

He will miss the All Blacks’ fi­nal two Tri­Na­tions games against Ar­gentina, and a pre­sea­son game for the Auck­land­based Blues.

The ju­di­cial com­mit­tee deemed Tu’un­gafasi’s high tackle mer­ited a mid­range en­try point of a six­week ban, due to the act be­ing deemed to be foul play in­volv­ing con­tact with the head.

How­ever, Tu’un­gafasi’s early guilty plea and clean ju­di­cial record led to his ban be­ing halved.

World Rugby is­sued new guide­lines on pe­nal­is­ing high tack­les in May last year, in a bid to dras­ti­cally re­duce the num­ber of head in­juries and con­cus­sions in the sport.

Tu’un­gafasi was one of two play­ers to be sent off in the fierce en­counter, which the Wal­la­bies won 24­22.

Wal­la­bies loose for­ward Lach­lan Swin­ton was also red­carded for a high tackle, and on Tuesday sus­pended for four weeks due to two pre­vi­ous of­fences.

All Black Scott Bar­rett and Wal­laby Marika Koroi­bete also spent time in the bin af­ter be­ing shown yel­low cards.

Tu’un­gafasi’s sus­pen­sion ends be­fore the Blues’ Su­per Rugby Aotearoa opener against Hur­ri­canes on Fe­bru­ary 27.

Mean­while, the All Blacks are hav­ing to rely on footage from two trial matches to do any scout­ing of Ar­gentina be­fore their TriNa­tions clash on Satur­day, as the South Amer­i­cans have not played a test since last year’s Rugby World Cup.

Un­til their matches against es­sen­tially an Aus­tralia A side over the last two week­ends, many of the Pu­mas play­ers had not

even played any rugby since March, when the Covid­19 pan­demic shut down the Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion.

With tests in the July win­dow also can­celled, the Pu­mas were re­stricted to con­tested train­ing runs against each other as they went through a se­ries of camps in bio­se­cure fa­cil­i­ties in Ar­gentina, Uruguay and Aus­tralia.

All Blacks lock Sam White­lock, how­ever, said fig­ur­ing out ex­actly how the Pu­mas may ap­proach the game was an en­joy­able part of the chal­lenge for his team this week.

‘‘They haven’t had a lot of footy to play, so there’s not a heap to

look at film wise,’’ White­lock said.

‘‘It has been re­fresh­ing try­ing to work out how they’re go­ing to play and how we’re go­ing to stop it. But then, also how are we go­ing to im­pose our game on them.’’

Cen­tre An­ton Lienert­Brown said he watched some of the footage from the Pu­mas’ two warm­up matches and he ex­pected the in­flu­ence of for­mer Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika, who is a con­sul­tant to the team, would be pre­sent.

‘‘He quite likes to play a fast­tempo game with big ball car­ry­ing for­wards, so I’m sure that in­flu­ence will come through,’’ Lienert­Brown said.

‘‘They are look­ing sharp. We ex­pect them to turn up like the Pu­mas do nor­mally.’’ — The New Zealand Herald/Reuters

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