Austraila 18-18 New Zealand, Bledisloe Cup
Higginbotham hit with two-week suspension
October 22, 2012
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw grapples with Australia's Scott Higginbotham during their Bledisloe Cup clash on Saturday © Getty Images
Australia's Scott Higginbotham has been handed a two-week suspension for striking New Zealand captain Richie McCaw during their Bledisloe Cup clash on Saturday.
The 26-year-old was cited in the wake of Wallabies' 18-all draw with the All Blacks at the Suncorp Stadium with replays appearing to show the flanker kneeing and head-butting his Kiwi rival.
Higginbotham pleaded guilty to two counts of striking McCaw and as a result he will miss the first two games of the Wallabies' end of year tour against France and England.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen labelled the incident as the latest "cheap shot" suffered by McCaw who was suffered a similar assault by South Africa's Dean Greyling in this year's Rugby Championship. However, Duty Judicial Officer, Jannie Lubbe SC graded both incidents as "low entry level".
"The hitting with the knee was more of a bump than a hit," Lubbe concluded in his judgement. "The head butt was reckless and not executed with much force. McCaw was not injured and play resumed.
"The Player has an exemplary disciplinary record and at the age of 26 it was his first appearance before a Judiciary," he added. "The Player pleaded guilty and placed on record that he and McCaw shook hands after the match and that there are no ill feelings."
The news is a fresh blow to the Wallabies' tour hopes with lock James Horwill (hamstring), utility back James O'Connor (hamstring) and fly-half Quade Cooper (knee) all recently joining the likes of scrum-half Will Genia (knee) and playmaker Berrick Barnes (lung) on the sidelines. Flanker David Pocock is another key figure in doubt for the tour as he continues to battle back from a knee injury.
But coach Robbie Deans, who will announce his tour squad on Thursday, remains confident of a strong showing. "If the boys are up for it in each instance like they were against the All Blacks, it's going to be a good tour," Deans told the Courier-Mail on Saturday night. "The hang-tough element has been good throughout the year and we'll be better for that finish in terms of closing the deal in tight ones next time."
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