Bundee Aki disciplinary hearing to be held in Tokyo on Monday
Andy Farrell reluctant to be drawn on matter after Ireland centre sent off in Samoa victory
Bundee Aki tackles Samoa’s Ulupano Seuteni, for which he was later sent off. Photograph: Hiroshi Yamamura/EPA
Derek Hegarty, a solicitor and Partner in William Fry’s law firm, will represent Bundee Aki in the player’s impending disciplinary hearing after being summoned by the Irish squad’s director of operations, Ger Carmody, within moments of incurring a red card in the 47-5 win over Samoa.
Aki’s disciplinary hearing is expected to take place in Tokyo on Monday evening and Hegarty, a former Terenure College and Leinster scrumhalf who has represented the IRFU previously, will plead the centre’s case.
Although a precedent has been set with the three-week suspensions handed out to the Wallabies’ Reece Hodge and the Samoan pair of Ray Lee-lo and Motu Matu’u, Hegarty is sure to also use the example of Piers Francis, amongst others,who as cleared by an independent judicial committee after he was cited for an act of foul play for a high hit in England’s game against the USA. Aki’s reaction time to Ulupano Seuteni catching the ball and effecting his high tackle on the Samoan outhalf was measured at 0.2 seconds.
Speaking at the Irish squad’s base in Fukuoka on Sunday, defence coach Andy Farrell was reluctant to be drawn on the matter. In the build-up to the Samoan game he had given the media a tutorial in tackling technique and reminded us: “I also said last week that I feel sorry for everyone who gets a red card.”
He added: “I don’t know anyone playing the game now in world rugby that means to do anything that warrants a red card. I know where you’re trying to go on this but I’ll keep my powder dry until after the process on this one.
“We haven’t had the referee’s report yet, so it’s very hard to comment. We believe that in the next 36 hours, there will be a hearing so we’ll see how that goes. We’ll wait for the report.
“It’s tough isn’t it? It’s tough the reaction stuff. It’s very tough to judge. You can slow everything down and everyone has a comment, ‘Oh, what if this happened? What if that happened?’ But I’d like to think there’s a bit of feel in and around the whole situation.”
The squad will move on to Tokyo on Monday afternoon to one of two destinations in the Japanese capital, depending on whether they meet New Zealand next Saturday or South Africa on Sunday in next weekend’s quarter-finals.
That will hinge on the outcome of the Japan-Scotland game at Yokohama International Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 7.45pm local time, 11.45am Irish) which was given the go-ahead by the tournament organisers in the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis.
The USA v Tonga and Wales v Uruguay matches were also given the green light, but the Namibia-Canada game in Kamaishi, billed as the Tier 2 World Cup final, was cancelled.
If Scotland beat Japan by more than seven points, or win with a bonus point while restricting the Brave Blossoms to no more than one bonus point, the Scots would pip the hosts for second place in Pool A and thus mean Ireland would face the Springboks. Anything less and it will mean a quarter-final against the All Blacks.
Whoever Ireland face, Farrell was under no illusions about the size of the task next weekend.
“They’re tough opponents, that’s for sure. We’ve been scouting the games over the World Cup so far and it more than confirms what our opponents are going to be about in the next round - top-class opponents really. It will be difficult to get into that semi-final but I suppose that’s what quarter-finals should be.”
There is a palpable feel good factor within the Irish camp after the performance against Samoa, which followed a nine-day turnaround which began with a weekend off.
“It was all about moving on to the next round, which we’re pretty pleased with,” said Farrell. “We get a chance to go to a quarter-final and I think we’re pretty pleased with how we managed the game. It was tricky enough conditions - when you watch it on TV you don’t quite understand how blustery it was out there.
“We managed the conditions pretty well, we played quite a good bit of territory in the first half and got our reward from our forward play on the back of that. In the second half it was tough, playing against the wind. We managed to stay down in the Samoan 22 for quite some time. All in all I thought we managed the game pretty well and I’m pleased to be sat here with a win.”
All that said and done, Farrell does not see form as especially relevant in the context of a one-off Cup tie.
“You know what, I don’t think it really matters, simply because this is a World Wup quarter-final coming up. We’ll digest the review of the Samoa game first and we’ll pick ourselves up and do some recovery stuff today but I don’t think form really comes into it next week.
“It was a good performance by ourselves yesterday. Is that going to be good enough? Who knows? We don’t know. All you’ve got to do in a quarter-final is win. Of course form on the day matters, whether you carry that on from a year ago, six months ago or last week, it all becomes a little bit irrelevant in the end.”
Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are set to eclipse the Peter Stringer-Ronan O’Gara partnership as Ireland’s most prolific half-back combination after starting their 55th Test together against Samoa (they also have two for the Lions).
On the back of the pack’s all-court supremacy, the duo controlled field position and the tempo of Ireland’s game, with Sexton scoring two tries in an 18-point haul.
“They controlled the game really well yesterday with some real touches of class along the way but I suppose those two would be the first to say to you that when the forwards are on top and keeping us rolling forward, then their game becomes that little bit easier,” said Farrell.
“I thought we looked really dangerous yesterday when we got quick ball and obviously then on the back of that, they tended to make really good decisions at the line. Their handling and decision making on the back of the speed of the ball was pretty impressive.”
If it comes to pass that Ireland play South Africa, much will again be made of the insider knowledge which the ex-Munster coaching triumvirate of Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber and Felix Jones have of Ireland, but Farrell maintained: “Well, I suppose we have good knowledge of them as well.”
“You’re talking about two or three guys in their squad. We’ve got plenty more than that that know their boxes of tricks etc but at the end of the day, the game takes its own course and you’ve got to manage the circumstances that you’re in at that moment in time. And I don’t think it will have a big part to play. We all do our analysis anyway and we tend to know each other pretty well.”