Healy wins appeal and is clear to face France
The Ireland squad received a timely morale boost yesterday when Cian Healy was cleared to play against France at the Aviva on Saturday week.
This morning Healy will be a welcome addition to the players who started against Scotland for a two-day camp in Carton House in Kildare. His three-week ban for stamping on England’s Dan Cole will now be served from February 10th, when the incident took place, and not over four weekends as the initial disciplinary committee, chaired by Wales’ Roger Morris, decreed.
The 37-times capped prop was represented by solicitor Donal Spring at yesterday’s appeal hearing in Glasgow.
Spring successfully argued that Ireland’s player welfare system were being unfairly punished by the first decision.
A three-man independent disciplinary appeal committee, chaired by Prof Lorne Crerar (Scotland), and including Antony Davies (England) and Rod McKenzie (Scotland), upheld Healy’s appeal, ensuring the suspension ends at midnight on March 3rd.
A Six Nations statement read: “By extending the three- week suspension over four weekends (to take account of the first ‘break weekend’ in the RBS 6 Nations Championship) was not permissible under the relevant regulations.”
The result also improves Healy’s prospects of touring Australia with the British and Irish Lions in June.
Morris’ initial disciplinary committee, which included Achille Reali (Italy) and Julien Berenger (France), when convening on February 13th, invoked 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 grounds for doing this, thereby extending the suspension and effectively banning Healy for two Six Nations matches, was supported in the disciplinary committee’s first written report by Ireland head coach Declan Kidney stating, at the initial hearing, Healy would not be released to play for Leinster against Treviso on February 16th.
Regulation 17.19.11 was primarily introduced to ensure a player whose suspension ran into the off-season could have it held off until the start of the new campaign to ensure he is punished fairly, to be used in the case of a player injured during the period of suspension.
Spring convinced the appeal committee a Six Nations disciplinary process cannot take into account when the Ireland management does or does not release players for provincial games.
Healy was not represented by a legal expert at the first hearing but was accompanied yesterday by Spring – a former Ireland backrow – Ireland team manager Mick Kearney and Declan McPhillips, head of the IRFU’s legal and compliance department.
Spring was the only person to speak on Healy’s behalf yesterday. Kidney remained in Ireland to work with his coaching team as they reviewed last Sunday’s 12-8 defeat to Scotland ahead of today’s camp.
The Six Nations, represented by solicitor Max Duthie, had a counter-appeal seeking to increase Healy’s suspension to five weeks. This was not heard by Crerar’s committee as Healy’s appeal was upheld. Duthie will be the Lions legal officer this summer in Australia.
Scotland and Edinburgh centre Nick De Luca has been handed a 13-week ban for a dangerous tackle which should see him ruled out until the end of the season.
An independent RaboDirect Pro 12 disciplinary committee ruled De Luca should serve the suspension following his dismissal against the Ospreys last Friday, the league announced in a statement.
De Luca, who has 38 caps for Scotland, has the right to appeal.