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An Appeal Committee convened by the Rugby World Cup 2015 has partially upheld an appeal on behalf of Samoan player Alesana Tuilagi following his five-week suspension for striking a Japanese player with his knee during Samoa’s World Cup pool game against Japan on 3 October 2015.

An Appeal Committee convened by the Rugby World Cup 2015 has partially upheld an appeal on behalf of Samoan player Alesana Tuilagi following his five-week suspension for striking a Japanese player with his knee during Samoa’s World Cup pool game against Japan on 3 October 2015.

The suspension had generated widespread interest in the rugby world with many former players taking to Twitter to voice their opinion under the hashtag #FreeAlesana.

In a Decision handed down on 6 October, the Independent Judicial Officer (IJO) had found that the raising of the knee had been deliberate and was “inherently dangerous”.

The Appeal Committee, which included former Australia head coach Robbie Deans, first accepted the submission that the appeal should proceed de novo (as a fresh hearing) rather than merely as a review of the IJO’s Decision. This was on the basis that the IJO had made reference in his Decision to the fact that he had “seen Mr Tuilagi play rugby many times from 2004 onwards – enough to know that what I’ve seen is not his normal running style”. The Appeal Committee accepted the submission that Mr Tuilagi had not been given an opportunity prior to or during the hearing to respond to this assertion and thus that it was in the interests of justice (pursuant to paragraph 4.3, App 5 of Section 10 of the Tournament Disciplinary Process) that the matter be heard afresh.

The Appeal Committee then considered at length the footage of the incident and live evidence from Mr Tuilagi. The Committee decided that while the finding of Foul Play was upheld the offence was “low end”, attracting a starting point suspension of only three weeks. After hearing submissions regarding mitigation the suspension was further reduced to two weeks.

Daniel Burgess appeared for Mr Tuilagi before the Appeal Committee.

Clerks

Staff