SAPPORO, Japan (Reuters) - Australia winger Reece Hodge’s World Cup hangs in the balance after he was cited for a dangerous tackle on Fiji’s Peceli Yato in their opening Pool D match in Sapporo on Saturday.
Yato was felled by Hodge, who appeared to make contact with the flanker’s head in a no-arms tackle around the 26th minute. Yato failed a head injury assessment and will miss Fiji’s match with Uruguay in Kamaishi on Wednesday.
While the Fijians protested the tackle during the game, match officials deemed there was no foul play, although social media users and pundits criticised the decision.
An independent citing commissioner, John Montgomery of Scotland, however, determined Hodge had “committed an act of foul play contrary to Law 9.13 (dangerous tackle),” World Rugby said in a statement on Sunday.
He will face a three-man judicial committee in Tokyo at a date yet to be determined.
World Rugby’s sanctions for a dangerous tackle start at a two-week ban. The mid-level sanction is six weeks, with a potential ban of 52 weeks as the maximum level of punishment.
Australia, who won the game 39-21 to earn a bonus point, face Six Nations champions Wales next Sunday in Tokyo, with the clash expected to determine the winner of the pool that also includes Georgia.
Hodge was not the only player to fall foul of the disciplinary committee in the first weekend of matches, with Argentina winger Mattias Moroni warned for pulling the hair of an opponent at the end of their 23-21 loss to France.
The warning would remain on Moroni’s record and be dealt with if he receives three warnings or yellow cards during the tournament.
The Argentina-France game in Tokyo descended into an ugly melee after the full-time whistle, with Moroni’s warning stemming from that incident, World Rugby said.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Tony Lawrence