The Cell C Sharks prop, Ox Nche, has been suspended for three weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing arising from his club’s Heineken Champions Cup, Round 1 match against Harlequins at Hollywoodbets Kings Park.
Nche was sent off by the referee, Tual Trainini (France), in the 59th minute of the match for tackling the Harlequins hooker, Jack Walker, in a dangerous manner in contravention of Law 9.13.
Law 9.13 A player must not tackle an opponent dangerously
Under World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 9.13 relating to dangerous tackling carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid-range: 6 weeks; Top end: 10 to 52 weeks.
An independent Disciplinary Committee comprising Declan Goodwin (Wales), Chair, Samantha Hillas KC (England) and Martyn Wood (England) considered video imagery of the incident and heard submissions from Nche, who did not accept the red card decision, from the player’s legal representative, Attie Heyns, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.
Michael Horak, the Cell C Sharks High Performance Manager, and André Barnard, the Cell C Sharks Head of Team Culture, were also present on the video link.
The committee upheld the red card decision, finding that in executing the tackle in a dangerous manner, Nche had made contact with Walker’s head. It then determined that the offending was at the mid-range of World Rugby’s sanctions and six weeks was selected as the appropriate entry point.
As the player has a good disciplinary record, and as there were no aggravating factors, it was decided to grant him the full 50% mitigation and the committee therefore reduced the sanction by three weeks before imposing a three-week suspension.
Nche is free to play on Monday, 2 January 2023, however, if he applies for and successfully completes a World Rugby Coaching Intervention, he will be free to play on Monday, 26 December 2022.
Both he and EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.
(i) Red Cards
a) The case of any player sent off in Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup matches shall be adjudicated by an independent Disciplinary Committee or an independent Judicial Officer as soon as is practicable.
b) Until the hearing the player is ineligible to play in any tournament.
(ii) Citing Commissioner
a) Citing Commissioners are appointed by EPCR for all Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR 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 26 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.
(iii) 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/european-professional-club-rugby/discipline-news/hearing-decisions/ when the disciplinary process is complete.
i) For World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, found at Appendix 2 to World Rugby Regulation 17, go to world.rugby