September 26, 2019 / 1:51 PM / 25 days ago

Hodge 'unaware' of new high tackle rules, says disciplinary panel

TOKYO (Reuters) - A report by an independent disciplinary tribunal has revealed that Australia winger Reece Hodge, banned for a dangerous high tackle against Fiji, was not aware of World Rugby’s new rules about dangerous high tackles.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2019 - Pool D - Australia v Fiji - Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan - September 21, 2019 Fiji's Peceli Yato in action with Australia's Reece Hodge REUTERS/Edgar Su

The panel, whose findings were released on Thursday, added that it was concerned by Hodge’s admission and promised to consider the matter further.

Hodge was cleared of an offence after tackling Fijian flanker Peceli Yato by matchday officials during the Pool D encounter on Sept 21 at Sapporo after reference to the TV pictures.

But he was then cited for a high tackle on Sunday and banned for three games on Wednesday.

“The Player conceded that he had no effective knowledge of WR’s ‘Decision making framework for high tackles’; had not been trained on it; was not across it because the tackles he makes are predominantly in the waist to knees area,” the disciplinary panel’s report said.

“To the Panel, this was of some general concern; and will be commented on later.”

The report also revealed the extent of the injury to Yato, who Hodge caught in the head with a tackle in the 26th minute.

The best player on the field up to that point, Yato was forced to sit out the rest of the match, as well as Fiji’s second game against Uruguay on Wednesday.

On his third examination, the flanker reported “increasing symptoms of headache, ‘pressure in head’, dizziness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light/noise, fatigue/low energy, and difficulty concentrating”, the report said.

“These have subsequently all improved but largely all remain. He has been unable to complete any of the stages of the graduated return to play due to these symptoms.”

Hodge, who 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, can appeal the decision within 48 hours.

Rugby Australia have yet to comment on the punishment.

World Rugby have made much of their campaign to rid the game of high hits and the fact that the match officials did not penalise Hodge even after reference to the TV pictures will be an embarrassment for them.

Hodge’s ban has been received with fury by the Australian media, with Sydney’s Daily Telegraph describing it as “farcical” and other outlets suggesting Hodge was made an example of by World Rugby.

It is rare that Clive Woodward, who led England to their World Cup final victory over the Wallabies in Sydney in 2003, gets much good press in Australia but his criticism of the decision was widely shared.

“Totally wrong decision, will have huge implications for the tournament - for me this is a yellow card and no more,” Woodward wrote on Twitter.

“Has any of those making this decision ever tried stopping someone as powerful as Yato by wrapping their arms around him? Good luck if you try that!”

Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Tokyo, editing by Sam Holmes and Tony Lawrence

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