Fekitoa banned for France Test

by AFP

Malakai Fekitoa will miss New Zealand's match against France in Paris on Saturday after being given a one-week ban on Tuesday for a dangerous tackle.

Fekitoa was cited after being sin-binned for a high tackle on Simon Zebo during the world champions' 21-9 win over Ireland in Dublin last Saturday.

Although shown a yellow card by South African referee Jaco Peyper, the centre was still able to score two of New Zealand's three tries as they gained revenge for a 40-29 defeat by Ireland -- the Irish's first win over the All Blacks -- in Chicago a fortnight earlier.

Malakai Fekitoa scored two of New Zealand's three tries in Dublin. Photo: Getty ImagesThere were those who thought Fekitoa should have been sent off but at a disciplinary hearing before a three-man panel in London chaired by Antony Davies (England), alongside Derek Bevan (Wales) and John Doubleday (England), Fekitoa accepted he had committed an act of foul play but argued that it would not have warranted a red card.

But the three-man committee, after viewing video evidence and listening to representations, issued a statement saying: "Mr Fekitoa's actions would have warranted a red card, albeit that he had acted recklessly rather than intentionally."

Having concluded the offence fell within the low-end entry point of World Rugby's scale of sanctions, which normally carries a two-week ban, the committee decided to impose a one-week ban on account of Fekitoa's "immediate acknowledgement of wrongdoing, his previous clean disciplinary record and his good conduct at the hearing)".

Fekitoa, who is free to resume playing on Monday, November 28, two days after the France match, does have the right of appeal.

Sam Cane was on crutches after the game. Photo: Getty ImagesThe committee was also due to consider Tuesday the case of New Zealand flanker Sam Cane, cited for a head-high tackle on Robbie Henshaw that saw the centre carried off the field on a stretcher in the 11th minute and led to him being ruled out of Ireland's match at home to Australia this Saturday with concussion.

Unlike Fekitoa, Cane received no card at all from Peyper.

Whatever the committee decide, Cane is unlikely to face France because of an ankle injury.

A bruising encounter revived concerns about the ferocity of modern Test rugby and re-opened the debate about whether New Zealand 'get away' with acts for which players from any other side are punished.

Peyper's decision to let Cane play on came just weeks after World Rugby, the sport's global governing body, urged referees to be "especially vigilant" when dealing with head-high tackles.

"It is disappointing, to be honest," said Ireland team manager Mick Kearney. "There were a number of tackles and bangs around the head.

"World Rugby had said if these incidents occur then you are liable to a red card, possibly. So that obviously didn't happen at the weekend." - Ireland team manager, Mick Kearney

Meanwhile former England centre Jeremy Guscott urged officials to be "better" at punishing the All Blacks. 

"Referees need to look harder at New Zealand," Guscott wrote in his BBC column.

"The All Blacks have to watch their high tackles -- they have got a reputation for it and have had two players cited from Saturday -- but for all that, you can't blame the players.

"There is ferocity in everything they do and they take everything to the limit, but it is up to the referee to be better at seeing and penalising them."