Vunipola’s red card chalked off

Vunipola's red card chalked off

Saracens No 8 Billy Vunipola has had his red card overturned following an independent disciplinary hearing arising from his sending off during the Champions Cup clash with the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria.

Vunipola was sent off by the referee Andrea Piardi in the 52nd minute of the match after his shoulder made dangerous contact with opposite number Cameron Hanekom’s head at a breakdown.

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The 31-year-old was cited for contravening Law 9.12 (Physical abuse of an opponent – punching or striking with hand, arm, elbow or shoulder) and Law 9.11 (Reckless or dangerous play – leading with the elbow or forearm).

An independent Disciplinary Committee comprising Jennifer Donovan (Ireland), Chair, Tony Wheat (Ireland) and Valeriu Toma (Romania), viewed footage of the incident and heard evidence by video conference from Vunipola, who accepted that he had committed an act of foul play but did not accept that it warranted a red card.

The committee also heard submissions from the Saracens Director of Rugby, Mark McCall, from the Saracens Team Manager, Warrick Lang, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.

The committee determined that Vunipola had committed an act of foul play, however, it decided that there was insufficient force in the contact to Hanekom’s head to warrant a red card, and the red card was therefore overturned.

Vunipola is free to play immediately and EPCR has the right to appeal the decision.

Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

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