The Wasps No 8, Nathan Hughes, has been suspended for two weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing arising from his club’s Champions Cup, Round 2 match against Harlequins at the Ricoh Arena.
Hughes was cited by the match Citing Commissioner, Murray Whyte (Ireland), for striking the Harlequins fly half, Marcus Smith (No 10), in the 29th minute of the match in contravention of Law 10.4 (a).
Law 10.4 (a) Striking with a hand, arm or fist
Under World Rugby's Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 10.4 (a), striking with a hand, arm or fist, carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid-range: 4 weeks; Top end: 8 to 52 weeks.
An independent Disciplinary Committee consisting of Roger Morris (Wales), Chairman, Andrea Caranci (Italy) and Antony Davies (England), heard evidence and submissions from Hughes, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, from the player’s legal representative, Andrew Hunter QC and from Wasps Head of Recruitment, Kevin Harman. Evidence and submissions were also heard from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.
The Committee upheld the citing complaint and determined that the strike to the neck warranted a red card. The Committee found that the offence was at the low end of World Rugby’s sanctions and selected two weeks as the appropriate entry point.
There were no aggravating factors, however, as the player did not plead guilty, the Committee was not able to reduce the sanction by the maximum allowable of 50 per cent, and a suspension of two weeks was imposed.
Hughes is free to play on Monday, 6 November and both he and EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.
(i) Citing Commissioner
a) Citing Commissioners are appointed by EPCR for all European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup matches and shall be entitled to cite a player for any act or acts of Foul Play that in the Citing Commissioner's opinion warranted a red card.
b) For such matches, clubs will not have the power to cite a player but may refer incidents to the Citing Commissioner within 26 hours of the start of the match.
c) The Citing Commissioner will have 50 hours from the start of the match to make a citing. In certain circumstances this deadline can be extended.
d) The tournament Disciplinary Officer may forward the submitted citing to a Citing Officer to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for the citing to progress.
e) The Disciplinary Officer will then bring a charge against the cited player.
(ii) Disciplinary Hearing
a) The independent Disciplinary Committee or independent Judicial Officer are chosen by the chairman of the independent Disciplinary Panel, Mike Hamlin.
b) EPCR's Disciplinary Officer presents the case against the player.
c) If a decision is upheld, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer will be required to consider the appropriate sanction under World Rugby's sanctioning regime, which EPCR is obliged to follow. The seriousness of the player's actions will be first assessed in order to determine which of the three stipulated entry points (lower end, mid-range and top end) is the most appropriate.
d) The Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer will determine the appropriate entry point based on an assessment of a number of particular characteristics of the player's actions, including whether or not they were intentional, whether or not they caused any injuries and whether or not they had any effect on the relevant match.
e) After deciding the entry point, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer will then consider whether the suspension should be increased from the entry point to take account of certain specified aggravating factors, such as a poor disciplinary record or the need for deterrence, and/or decreased from the entry point to take account of certain specified mitigating actions, such as a guilty plea, a good disciplinary record, the player's conduct at the hearing and expressions of remorse.
f) A suspension is a blanket ban from playing rugby union anywhere in the world. Players are suspended on the basis that a one-week period of suspension would ordinarily result in a player missing one match. Suspensions take into account periods of inactivity (such as the close season), periods when a player is injured or otherwise not fit to play, and when a player is not available or not expected to play. Suspensions should also take into account any out-of-season matches which are not considered to be meaningful, or which are not close enough to the season to be a determining factor in a player’s future selection.
g) Both parties to the hearing (EPCR and the player) have the right to appeal decisions. Appeals must be lodged within three (3) working days of receiving the full written decision of the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer.
h) The full written decision will be available on www.epcrugby.com/discipline/news.php when the disciplinary process is complete.
i) For World Rugby's Sanctions for Foul Play, found at Appendix 1 to World Rugby Regulation 17, please go to www.worldrugby.org