England No 8 Billy Vunipola is BANNED from the start of the Rugby World Cup over his dangerous high tackle, hours after Owen Farrell’s suspension was confirmed
England’s disastrous World Cup preparations have been dealt another blow after Billy Vunipola was banned for three matches.
Barely 12 hours after captain Owen Farrell was suspended for four matches, the giant No8 has also been suspended for a dangerous high tackle.
Like Farrell, Vunipola will miss the crucial opening pool matches against Argentina and Japan, as well as this weekend’s warm-up match against Fiji.
However, Vunipola has a clean disciplinary record and has the option to reduce his ban by one week by attending ‘tackle school’ – which would make him available for Japan.
Vunipola was sent off against Ireland in Dublin, following a bunker review on his high shot on prop Andrew Porter.
Billy Vunipola will miss England’s first two Rugby World Cup matches after being hit with a ban
Vunipola (left) has been punished for his high tackle on Ireland prop Andrew Porter (right)
Owen Farrell will also sit out of the first two group stage matches after his belated suspension
England’s Rugby World Cup group matches
Argentina – September 9 (Marseille)
Japan – September 17 (Nice)
Chile – September 23 (Lille)
Samoa – October 7 (Lille)
Facing an independent disciplinary panel, Vunipola admitted that he had committed an act of foul play worthy of a red card.
World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point for foul play resulting in head contact is six weeks but, represented by Richard Smith KC, Vunipola’s ban was halved to three.
The verdict stated: ‘Having acknowledged mitigating factors including his exemplary previous record, immediate apology and remorse, and noted the absence of any aggravating factors, the committee reduced the six week entry point by three weeks.’
The decision on Vunipola comes after Farrell was banned for four matches following an appeal against the controversial ruling which overturned the England captain’s red card in the defeat to Wales.
Last week, there was global uproar when Farrell was spared punishment at an initial disciplinary hearing, after his shoulder struck Basham’s head during England’s encounter with Wales at Twickenham on August 12.
The all-Australian panel deemed that contact made by Jamie George had changed Basham’s running line a split-second before the collision with Farrell, and that mitigating factor meant the match-day decision to upgrade his yellow card to a red was rescinded.
However, amid a storm of international protests, World Rugby exercised their right to appeal against the judgement.
An independent judicial penal reached a guilty verdict and opted to impose the ‘mid-range’ suspension, with a reduction of two weeks for acceptance of foul play, remorse and good character.
It was agreed that the ban would include the warm-up fixture against Ireland in Dublin last weekend.
Farrell appeared at the hearing via video link, in front of the panel comprising chair Nigel Hampton KC (New Zealand), along with Shao-ing Wang from Singapore and Donal Courtney from Ireland.
Farrell’s hearing began at 7.30am and some 13 hours later, there was an announcement from the Six Nations – who oversee the process in this case – that the 31-year-old has been suspended for four matches, having originally avoided a sanction.
The scenario is nightmarish for head coach Steve Borthwick, with his preparations in jeopardy
Referee Paul Williams brandished his red card to Vunipola after initially showing him yellow