Mixed messages on Healy ban
Rugby: There appears to be some confusion surrounding the precise nature of Cian Healy suspension for stamping, with Ireland coach Declan Kidney explaining this afternoon that it is his belief the prop is ineligible to play for Leinster this weekend. Healy was banned for three weeks yesterday for stamping on England’s Dan Cole, but a Six Nations disciplinary committee opted to defer the sanction by one week on the assumption that Healy wouldn’t be released to his province.As it currently stands the suspension runs from midnight Sunday until March 10th, thus resulting in his apparent availability against Treviso on Saturday.
Leinster indicated this morning that the Irish international had been made available to play against Treviso this weekend, with forwards coach Jonno Gibbes claiming Kidney had been in touch with the province, only for Kidney to offer a completely different perspective at an Ireland press briefing this afternoon.
Kidney, who was at the disciplinary hearing in London yesterday, made it clear that no decision has been made to release the 25-year-old and that the Irish management are still waiting for a copy of the written judgment before considering their options.
“Experience has taught us to wait for the written judgement or explanation to come down and we’ll take it from there. Let’s see what’s in the judgement,” Kidney said today. “It’s certainly an option that he could play for Leinster this weekend, but we’ve been told that he’s suspended and he’s not allowed to.
“We asked the question yesterday whether he could play this weekend and we were told no, he is suspended.”
Kidney’s comments were at odds with those of Gibbes, who indicated that the European champions intend to select Healy for Saturday’s match.
“Cian is certainly available. Joe Schmidt and Declan Kidney have talked about the involvement of test players this weekend,” Gibbes said this morning. “Cian’s available and personally I’d be delighted to involve him, he’s a really big asset. He will definitely be considered.
“There are complications for others maybe, but he’s available for us. It’s a game in the break of the Six Nations and he’s under consideration. Nothing is surprising when the rugby judiciary is involved. You have to go in with an open mind because you never know what will come out of it.”
That decision to defer Healy’s three-week ban means that Healy will not be available for Ireland’s Six Nations matches against Scotland and France. Had the ban commenced after last weekend’s match against England, as is normally the case, Healy would only have missed the game against Scotland.
The IRFU are expected to contest Healy’s ban, which is in effect a four-week sanction, and a decision to release the loosehead prop to face Treviso could strengthen their case at any appeal hearing. Should he actually play in the game ahead of an appeal, however, it may complicate matters.
The 25-year-old prop pleaded guilty to stamping on Cole during Sunday’s defeat at the Aviva stadium. 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.