Rugby World Cup: Samoa defend Bundee Aki after Ireland centre sees red

Coach Steve Jackson hopes World Rugby will ‘see sense’ after Aki’s red a for high tackle

Bundee Aki is consoled by Jack Lam after he is shown a red card during Ireland’s win over Samoa. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Bundee Aki is consoled by Jack Lam after he is shown a red card during Ireland’s win over Samoa. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Samoa coach Steve Jackson and captain Jack Lam have called on the World Rugby disciplinary committee to “see sense” by not suspending Bundee Aki for next week’s quarter-final despite the red card for a high tackle.

Aki was sent-off by referee Nic Berry following arm to head contact that ended Samoa outhalf Ulupano Seuteni’s game just 29 minutes into Ireland’s 47-5 victory.

“Look, I don’t know if I should really comment on it,” Jackson began on a topic he been speaking about almost daily at this World Cup.

“Again, it’s the mitigating factors again, whether they drop in height and those sort of things. As you all know, it’s the toss of a coin at the moment.

“Nic Berry refereed the game really well. I’ve known Bundee for a long, long time and what a great man he is, he’s got great character and he doesn’t go out there to do harm to anybody. Hopefully the powers that be see some sense and hopefully he gets to continue on in this tournament because he’s a great kid and he deserves it as much as most.

“Again, as we’ve seen if there is any contact with the head, people have been penalised. We lost a couple of players but I hope no further sanction comes to him because I hope he can go further in this tournament and play.

“We’ll do everything we possibly can from a Samoan perspective to make sure that he gets on that field next week.

“People don’t go out there to make head contact. I think Joe said it in a coaches’ briefing before the tournament. Yes, we ended up with UJ having a HIA but there’s more concussions that come from tackles around the knee and people getting kneed in the head.

“Was their malice in Bundee’s tackle? No, he’s just physical in the collisions being a Samoan boy. There’s always that mitigating factor about how low did someone go.

Samoa’s Ulupano Seuteni down after a tackle by Bundee Aki. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty
Samoa’s Ulupano Seuteni down after a tackle by Bundee Aki. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty

“Defenders have got to make decision within a split second. If you look at Bundee’s tackle again, UJ came with the ball at pace and I think he only had two or three metres to make a decision as to what sort of tackle he might put in. That’s what they’re asking the players to do now, in a spilt second you’ve got to make the right decision about what sort of tackle you’re going to make, which is extremely difficult.

“I wish Bundee all the best.”

Aki and several other Samoans gathered on the field afterwards for a friendly chat.

“No hard feelings at all,” said Lam. “We just said to Bundee how we feel. Hopefully it doesn’t get ruined by him missing a couple of weeks out of the game. Hopefully we get to see him in the finals.”

The suspension for similar incidents at the tournament to date has been three games.

After reviewing the incident the Australian ref felt he had no option but to show a red card as Aki was moving upwards into contact: “Direct contact to head with high degree of force. I’m not seeing enough to mitigate it down.”

Berry had yellow carded Samoa hooker Seilala Lam for arm to head contact on Jacob Stockdale after just five minutes.

“Illegal contact with a high degree of danger,” said Berry, “but there is mitigation as the player drops his hips.”

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