Peter O'Mahony has been suspended for three matches, ruling him out of Ireland's Six Nations games against France at the Aviva Stadium as well as the round three trip to play Italy in Rome and the fourth-round game away to Scotland.
O'Mahony appeared before an independent disciplinary committee, comprised of Mike Hamlin (England), Frank Hadden (Scotland) and Val Toma (Romania), via video conference today after receiving a red card in the 14th minute of Ireland's 21-16 defeat by Wales last Sunday for leading with his forearm into the face of the Welsh prop Tomas Francis.
The Irish flanker did not challenge the red card and after receiving evidence from him and reviewing clips of the incident, the panel issued O’Mahony with a three-match suspension, which in effect amounts to five weeks and leaves him eligible to return for Ireland’s final game at home to England on March 20th.
The Six Nations statement read: "In assessing the seriousness of the offending, the committee found that the offending was reckless. They were satisfied that the player's conduct breached World Rugby Law 9.20(a), in that he charged into a ruck. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul. The Committee noted that the offending involved reckless contact with the head of the Wales No 3."
“As the conduct involved contact with the head, although noting that no injury was suffered by the Wales No.3, the committee determined that the entry point was mid-range, which for this offence is six weeks. It was accepted that there were no off field aggravating factors, and the disciplinary committee concluded after careful consideration of the player’s record and conduct in the hearing, that the player was entitled to a 50% reduction of sanction in mitigation.
“The player is suspended from 7th February 2021 to 14th March 2021, which represents three meaningful matches to the player. The player is free to play again on 15th March 2021.”
O'Mahony received the first red card of his career when playing for Munster away to the Scarlets last October after incurring a second yellow card for a similar ruck 'cleanout', although he was cleared to play without a suspension after a judicial review, as Nigel Owens highlighted this week.
Owens, who has retired from international referee after becoming the first official to oversee 100 Tests last year but intends continuing to officiate the Pro14 for the next year or two, told BBC Scrum V: “Red cards are never easy and they’re not nice to give. Referees don’t want to give them unless they have to. But you are there to do the job. It was a pretty straightforward decision really.
“He did it at Parc y Scarlets a few months ago, he got a second yellow card for something similar,” added Owens. “He also did it against the Scarlets in the final about four or five years ago, he got a yellow card for something similar.
"I'm not saying Peter O'Mahony is a dirty player one bit but he certainly has a bit of history doing that type of action. Players know that you can't go into situations like that, off your feet, leading with the shoulder, forearm or the head. That was probably one of the easiest red cards Wayne Barnes will have to give."
As an aside, when pushed on the issue by former Wales No 8 Scott Quinnell, Owens revealed that the penalty against Conor Murray for 'blocking' Louis Rees-Zammit as he chased an up-and-under last Sunday in the Principality Stadium was something that officials had also discussed privately.
“Personally, I wouldn’t go into a game with preconceived ideas but you’re aware of what players get sent off, especially some players who have been sent off before for it. Something similar happened in the second half when Conor Murray got penalised for blocking the chaser, correctly.
“When we were in a refereeing camp a year or two ago, we actually discussed, from an England v Ireland game, Conor Murray doing that, subtly stepping around and blocking the chasers.
“So when referees do their prep work, they’ll be quite aware of these trends that some players and teams do.”