Warburton banned for three weeks


Rugby: Wales captain Sam Warburton has been given a three-week ban for his dangerous tackle on France winger Vincent Clerc in the Rugby World Cup semi-final on Saturday.

Irish referee Alain Rolland acted immediately to red card Warburton after the flanker lifted and dumped Clerc in the 18th minute of the semi-final at Eden Park.

With France going on to win 9-8 and reach the final, Warburton will now miss Friday's third-placed play-off.

Tackles involving a player being lifted and tipped horizontally and then forced, or dropped, to the ground are illegal and constitute dangerous play, the International Rugby Board had previously ruled.

An IRB memorandum issued more than two years ago stated that such tackles "must be dealt with severely by referees and those involved in the off-field disciplinary process''.

The independent judicial officer, England's Christopher Quinlan QC, concluded that the offence was mid-range on the scale of seriousness, which has an entry point of six weeks.

He found that there were no aggravating features and there were compelling mitigating features, including the player's admission, outstanding character and disciplinary record and remorse, which saw the suspension cut in half.

Warburton will be available for the start of Cardiff Blues' Heineken Cup campaign, which begins with an away game against Paris-based Racing Metro on November 11th.

Warburton said after the verdict: "Obviously I'm very disappointed but all my attention and focus now goes towards the players playing on Friday and supporting them the best I can.''

He was accompanied at the hearing by Rhodri Lewis, the Welsh Rugby Union's head of legal affairs, who added: "The WRU respects the process and will not be commenting on the detail of the hearing.

"We are obviously, naturally, disappointed for Sam that he will not be able to play on Friday. Our focus now moves towards Friday's match. Sam has been an exemplary captain for Wales throughout the Rugby World Cup."