TOKYO (Reuters) - Australia winger Reece Hodge will miss three World Cup matches after being found guilty of a dangerous tackle on Fiji’s Peceli Yato at a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.
Hodge’s no-arms tackle caught the Fijian flanker in the head in the 26th minute of the Pool D opener in Sapporo on Saturday but the Wallabies back was cleared of an offence by the matchday officials.
He was cited on Sunday and will now miss Australia’s crunch clash with Six Nations champions Wales on Sunday as well as the matches against Uruguay on Oct. 5 and Georgia on Oct. 11.
World Rugby said in a statement that the committee had determined that Hodge should have been shown a red card but the punishment was halved from six weeks because of his “exemplary disciplinary record, good character and conduct at the hearing”.
Hodge, who may appeal the decision within 48 hours, will be free to play again in the knockout stages of the tournament should Australia progress.
Yato, who had been the most influential player on the pitch up to that point, missed the rest of the match and was forced to sit out Wednesday’s game against Uruguay in Kamaishi to complete concussion protocols.
The ruling that Hodge should have received a red card will be an embarrassment for World Rugby and there might be more on the way after Samoans Rey Lee-lo and Motu Matu’u were cited for dangerous high tackles on Wednesday.
The pair were shown yellow cards for the hits on Vasily Artemyev in Tuesday’s 34-9 victory over Russia in Kumagaya with the referee and Television Match Official (TMO) deciding the Russian captain had “dipped” his head going into the tackle.
Without specifically mentioning the Hodge incident, World Rugby issued a statement before the Samoa-Russia match on Tuesday admitting the officiating over the opening weekend had not been up to scratch and promising an improvement.
The Hodge tackle was the most controversial incident on the opening weekend of the tournament in the context of World Rugby’s campaign to rid the game of high tackles.
But Argentina coach Mario Ledesma also lambasted the referee for ignoring what he saw as blatant infringements as his side chased a game against France which they lost, while many South Africans were unhappy at the officiating in their loss to New Zealand.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ken Ferris