Lawes handed two-week ban
September 13, 2011
Lawes and QC Richard Smith arrive for the disciplinary hearing in Auckland © Getty Images
England lock Courtney Lawes has been handed a two-game ban after being found guilty of striking Argentina's Mario Ledesma during their Rugby World Cup clash on Saturday.
Lawes entered a not guilty plea when he appeared before a disciplinary hearing in Auckland today but was handed a two-week suspension that will sideline him for the Pool B matches with Romania and Georgia.
The offence carries a guideline suspension of between three and 12 weeks, or matches in the World Cup context, but Lawes' offence was deemed 'low end' and he will be free to play against Scotland in the final pool match in Auckland on October 1. Lawes, who became the first player to be cited at the 2011 tournament, and England have 48 hours from receipt of the full written decision in which to appeal.
His "excellent disciplinary record and remorse" were taken into account in the length of the ban. A Rugby World Cup Ltd statement read: "Lawes, who pleaded not guilty, was suspended by independent judicial officer Terry Willis (Australia) in accordance with the Rugby World Cup 2011 disciplinary process.
"Having conducted a detailed review of all the evidence available, including all broadcast angles and additional evidence from the player and submissions from his counsel, Richard Smith QC, the judicial officer upheld the citing on the basis that the player had committed an act of foul play. With respect to the sanction, the offence was deemed to be low-end (which has an entry point of three weeks).
"However, taking into account mitigating factors being his excellent disciplinary record and remorse and the absence of aggravating factors, the player was suspended for two weeks. In the context of the Rugby World Cup tournament a week equates to one match. Therefore, Lawes is suspended for two Rugby World Cup 2011 matches and is free to resume playing for England's Pool B match against Scotland in Auckland on October 1."
England manager Martin Johnson was disappointed by Lawes' suspension. "It is a fast-moving game and he dived to make what he thinks is a try-saving tackle. We thought any contact was incidental but they thought differently," Johnson told Sky Sports News. "It is disappointing to lose him but we've got other good players who can come in and play. The good thing is that squad-wise we are going to need to play players. We can't have players playing in the knockout stages without having played a game earlier in the tournament."
Johnson will wait until Lawes and the team QC Richard Smith return from Auckland with the written judgement before deciding whether to appeal. "He has dived in to make what he thinks is a try-saving tackle and we thought any contact with the knees was incidental to him trying to do that in a fast paced game," said Johnson.
"They obviously saw it a little bit differently. I have briefly spoken to the guys in Auckland but I have not got the detail yet. We will wait until the guys get back and hear what has gone on and see from there."
England have the resources to cover Lawes' absence with Louis Deacon, Simon Shaw and Tom Palmer in the squad as recognised locks while Tom Croft and Nick Easter can both fill in. "It is disappointing to potentially lose him. For a young man, he played very well. It is not great," said Johnson. "We have the cover clearly. The good thing for us squad-wise is that we will need to play players.
Asked if he expected captain Lewis Moody to be fit for Sunday's match against Georgia in Dunedin, Johnson said: "We are hopeful he is going to be good to go. We talked last week that he wasn't far off being fit. Another week is always better when you've been injured for a long time but, at some point, you've got to go and we are hopeful."
Johnson also brushed off criticism for allowing his players to unwind by taking part in bungee jumps, saying: "What they do when they are training is far more dangerous. On these trips you need a balance. If any guy had an injury that would be jeopardised by doing it they wouldn't do it."
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