Healy likely to appeal three-week suspension
Ireland prop Cian Healy is tackled during last Sunday's Six Nations clash against England at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Stu Foster/Getty Images
RUGBY:Cian Healy is expected to appeal the three-week suspension meted out by the Six Nations disciplinary committee in Heathrow yesterday.
As it currently stands, Healy will miss both the Scotland (February 24th) and France (March 9th) matches.
The 25-year-old prop pleaded guilty to stamping on England’s Dan Cole during Sunday’s defeat at the Aviva stadium. However, the circumstances of the case will ensure the Irish management seek further legal advice over the next 48 hours. That is the length of time before the written judgement has to be delivered.
The disciplinary committee of chairman Roger Morris (Wales), Achille Reali (Italy) and Julien Berenger (France), having viewed footage of the incident in the 14th minute of Ireland’s 12-6 defeat, categorised the stamp as a mid-range offence.
That carries a sanction of five weeks but they allowed two weeks of mitigation. That should have ensured Healy’s suspension ended six days before France visit Dublin.
However, the committee decided to implement IRB regulation 17.19.11 (b), which states the disciplinary committee “may defer the commencement of a suspension provided that the player is not scheduled to play (and will not be permitted to play) prior to the commencement of the suspension.”
The committee came to the conclusion that Healy would not be released for Leinster’s match against Treviso on Saturday. Therefore, the suspension is put back a week, effectively making it a four-week ban.
Regulation 17.19.11 was primarily introduced to ensure a player whose suspension ran into the off-season can have it held off until the start of the new campaign to ensure he is adequately punished.
If Healy was a French international he would be unavailable to play for his club in the Top 14 this weekend but would return for round four of the Six Nations in Dublin. This may be central to his defence on appeal. The suspension is currently due to end at midnight on Sunday, March 10th, meaning he can return for the trip to Rome on March 16th.
Healy did not bring a legal expert to yesterday’s hearing but spoke on his own behalf about the incident. Ireland team manager Mick Kearney and head coach Declan Kidney also attended and one, or both, also spoke on the Clontarf native’s behalf.
It is believed that French referee Jerome Garces did not see the incident, despite his proximity to the ruck, as he subsequently penalised Cole for killing the ball. The melee that followed between the two packs was actually caused by Peter O’Mahony’s arrival to also loosen the ball for scrumhalf Conor Murray.
There is also a concern about the lack of consistency with regards to players making contact with opponents who are offside at the ruck. Welsh flanker Justin Tipuric avoided being cited despite making contact with Jonathan Sexton’s face in the match in Cardiff on February 2nd. Murray was also stamped on in that game.
Regardless of whether Healy appeals of not, he will certainly miss Sunday week’s meeting with Scotland. Munster’s David Kilcoyne may be poised to start his first Test match in Edinburgh, all four of his caps to date have come from the bench. The 24-year-old Limerick loosehead will not feature for Munster against the Scarlets on Saturday. Ulster’s Tom Court, however, could yet be withdrawn from Ulster’s game against Zebre tomorrow.