Bundee Aki banned for eight games and will miss Ireland Autumn International Tests vs South Africa, Fiji

Bundee Aki unavailable for: Bulls vs Connacht Sept 30; Connacht vs Munster Oct 7; Connacht vs Leinster Oct 14; Connacht vs Scarlets Oct 21; Ospreys vs Connacht Oct 29; Ireland vs South Africa Nov 5; Ireland vs Fiji Nov 12; Ireland vs Australia Nov 19 (Intervention Programme offered)

Last Updated: 29/09/22 4:59pm

Ireland centre Bundee Aki has been banned for eight games, including Ireland’s Autumn fixtures vs South Africa and Fiji

Ireland and Connacht centre Bundee Aki has been banned for eight games after picking up the third red card of his career last weekend, meaning he will miss Tests vs South Africa and Fiji in November.

The midfielder is provisionally scheduled to miss Ireland’s third and final Autumn International vs Australia too, but will become available to play in that Test should he complete a Coaching Intervention Programme.

Aki was red carded for a dangerous clear-out at a ruck vs the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday, and has now been heavily punished for the act, and for his behaviour with match officials immediately afterwards on the pitch.

His suspension comes as a big blow to Connacht ahead of a difficult run of fixtures, which includes two Irish provincial derbies vs Munster and Leinster, but also to Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with Aki having played a big role in the summer’s historic Test series win vs the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Aki has been a key part of the Ireland set-up under head coach Andy Farrell

Aki has been a key part of the Ireland set-up under head coach Andy Farrell

With Ireland due to face two of the most physical sides in world rugby this autumn in South Africa and Fiji, the centre’s power and tackling prowess will be particularly missed.

A combination of his making head contact in a clear-out with Stormers wing Seabelo Senatla and his interactions with referee Gianluca Gnecchi saw Aki handed an entry suspension point of 10 weeks.

This was reduced by four weeks due to mitigating factors including acceptance off-field he committed foul play, expressions of remorse and apologies, but two further weeks were added due to Aki having twice been red carded before for incidents involving head contact (2019 and 2021), as well as a previous suspension and warning regarding interactions with referees, taking the total ban to eight weeks.

“The Disciplinary process related to Bundee Aki’s (Connacht Rugby) Red Card in the BKT United Rugby Championship Round 2 game against DHL Stormers on Saturday, September 24 2022 has resulted in an eight-week ban,” a statement read.

Aki is also a pivotal performer for province Connacht, and will be a major loss

Aki is also a pivotal performer for province Connacht, and will be a major loss

“After an act of foul play against DHL Stormers player No 11 (Seabelo Senatla) referee Gianluca Gnecchi showed the Player a Red Card in the 60th minute of the game under Law 9.20(a) – A Player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another Player in the ruck or maul.

“In his responses to the Judicial Officer overseeing the disciplinary process (Pamela Woodman, Scotland), the Player had accepted that he had committed an act of foul play which warranted a Red Card.

“She determined that the Player’s actions towards Seabelo Senatla were reckless and took into account, among other things, the speed, force and high degree of danger in the Player’s actions. Ms. Woodman determined that, had it been based on this conduct alone, the offending would have been categorised as mid-range on the scale of seriousness.

“However, Ms. Woodman also considered the Player’s actions and demeanour towards the referee in connection with the issue of the Red Card, which she found did not meet the expected standards of conduct or respect. This was also taken into account (in accordance with URC’s Disciplinary Rules) in determining that the Player’s offending was at the top-end on the scale of seriousness, which warranted an entry point sanction of 10 weeks.

“The Judicial Officer then considered if there were any mitigating factors and found that the Player’s acceptance that he had committed an act of foul play (during the off-field disciplinary process), expression of remorse, apologies to both the opposing player and referee, and willingness to engage with his club coaching staff on a plan to address this issue, were relevant mitigating factors. These mitigating factors warranted a reduction in the sanction of four weeks.

“The Player’s previous suspensions for red cards in 2019 and 2021 for foul play involving head contact, as well as his suspension and warning for previous conduct relating to interactions with referees, were considered aggravating factors, which the Judicial Officer decided warranted a further two weeks of sanction.

“As a result the Player will be suspended for a period of eight weeks.

“Should the Player complete the Coaching Intervention Programme then the sanction will be reduced by one week.”

Fixtures Bundee Aki is unavailable for:

Vodacom Bulls vs Connacht Rugby 30 September 2022, BKT URC

Connacht Rugby vs Munster 7 October 2022, BKT URC

Connacht Rugby vs Leinster 14 October 2022, BKT URC

Connacht Rugby vs Scarlets 21 October 2022, BKT URC

Ospreys vs Connacht Rugby 29 October 2022 BKT URC

Ireland vs South Africa 5 November 2022, Autumn Nations Series

Ireland vs Fiji 12 November 2022, Autumn Nations Series

Ireland vs Australia 19 November 2022 Autumn Nations Series (substituted if the Player successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention)

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