Red-carded Barbarians lock Will Skelton will miss the opening two rounds of the new Top 14 season at La Rochelle after it was finally confirmed that he received a six-match ban for his June 19 sending-off versus England at Twickenham. The Australian international became the first-ever Baa-Baas player to be sent off when he shouldered the head of prop Patrick Schickerling.
The resulting disciplinary hearing took place via Zoom the day after the match in London but the outcome fell through the cracks of a busy period of international rugby and it was only in recent days that World Rugby publicly confirmed the length of Skelton’s ban when it uploaded the decision on its website.
Skelton had been dropped from the Australian squad for the three-game series versus England prior to the Barbarians match, so his ban only commenced when the Wallabies last week took on Argentina in Mendoza in the opening round of the Rugby Championship.
This delay means that the suspension will now last for five of the six rounds of the southern hemisphere tournament while it also includes the August 25 pre-season friendly between La Rochelle and Stade Francais. However, Skelton can get the final week of his ban scratched if he successfully completes the World Rugby coaching intervention program.
That would mean his ban expires on September 12, permitting Dave Rennie to call him up for the Wallabies’ Thursday night match versus the All Blacks on September 15 if he so desired. However, the more likely first match back for Skelton is the September 17 Top 14 meeting of La Rochelle and Perpignan.
A World Rugby statement read: “Barbarians second row Will Skelton appeared before an independent judicial committee via video link having received a red card in the match against England. The independent disciplinary committee was chaired by Simon Thomas (Wales), joined by former international referee Donal Courtney (Ireland) and former Scotland head coach, Frank Hadden (Scotland).
“The player accepted that he had committed both the act of foul play and accepted that the offence was worthy of a red card. On that basis, the committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point for foul play resulting in contact with the head. This resulted in a starting point of a six-week suspension.
“The committee took into consideration the mitigating factors and decided that the player was entitled to a reduction of one-third of the sanction (two weeks). The committee then considered the aggravating factors and in particular the player’s recent disciplinary record and increased the sanction by one-third (two weeks), resulting in a sanction of six weeks.
“The player may apply to take part in the coaching intervention program to substitute the final match of his sanction for a coaching intervention aimed at modifying specific techniques and technical issues that contributed to the foul play.”
In the summary of the Skelton evidence in the ten-page written judgment, it was reported: “He [Skelton] observed that Schickerling had ‘knocked the ball on’ and the player’s focus then switched to blocking him. He explained that he was concerned that Schickerling would try and dive on the ball, killing the ball to prevent the Barbarians from taking advantage of the knock-on and creating an attacking move.
“The player said that in his attempt to block Schickerling he stayed high. He said that he had not felt that he had ‘clipped him’ to the head. He described his actions di lui by blocking and holding up Patrick as ‘gamesmanship’ as it was illegal to block a player, and that is why the video footage showed him smiling after contact had been made with Patrick.
“He said that it is common practice to hold somebody for a short period after a tackle to delay a tackled player from rejoining the game. He said that he accepted the red card was appropriate in the circumstances. He said that he had apologized to Patrick and to his own teammates following the incident.
“When asked about the relative height of himself and Schickerling, he said that he was 6ft 7ins tall and estimated Schickerling’s height as being around 6ft. He accepted that his act di lui was always going to be illegal because he knew that Schickerling did not have the ball when he went to make contact with him, but he said that his arms di lui did attempt to wrap.
“He said that he did not feel he put any real force into the contact. He did not accept that his tackle di lui was a particularly dominant tackle. He said that he only became aware that his shoulder di lui had made contact with Patrick’s head after he had looked at the footage. “
- Click here for the complete ten-page Will Skelton written decision
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