RWC 2019: Ireland flying specialist lawyer into Japan to keep Bundee Aki's World Cup alive

Press Association Sport 10:07 13/10/2019
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Ireland are flying a specialist lawyer into Japan in a bid to keep Bundee Aki’s Rugby World Cup alive.

Connacht centre Aki faces a disciplinary hearing in Tokyo on Monday night, following his red card in Ireland’s 47-5 win over Samoa that booked Joe Schmidt’s men a World Cup quarter-final.

Aki was sent off for a high tackle on UJ Seuteni in Fukuoka, and the 29-year-old could be hit with a suspension that could end his World Cup.

But the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has confirmed that William Fry partner Derek Hegarty is en route to Japan, to act for the union in any eventual hearing.

Defence coach Andy Farrell said Ireland are still awaiting referee Nic Berry’s official match report, but admitted his personal sympathy for any player who is sent off.

“I feel sorry for everyone who gets a red card,” said Farrell.

“I don’t know anyone in world rugby who wants to do anything like that on a pitch.

“I’ll keep my powder dry until after the process; we haven’t had the referee’s report yet, so we’ll wait until after that.

“We believe there will be a hearing in the next 36 hours, so we’ll see how that goes.

“Reaction stuff is very tough to judge, you can slow everything down and everyone has a comment.

“I’d like to think there’s a bit of feel in and around the whole situation.”

Ireland boss Schmidt said Aki was “devastated” to have been sent off against his fatherland Samoa in Saturday’s seven-try win in Fukuoka.

Samoa head coach Steve Jackson immediately pledged to make any possible representation to World Rugby, in the hope Aki would not receive any further punishment than his red card.

World Rugby confirmed Aki’s hearing will take place on Monday in a short statement.

“The player will attend a hearing before an independent judicial committee chaired by Adam Casselden SC (Australia), joined by former international coach Frank Hadden (Scotland and former referee Valeriu Toma (Romania),” read the statement.

“The hearing will take place in Tokyo at 1930 on Monday, October 14.”

Previous red cards have been met with three-match suspensions at this World Cup however, and Aki might suffer the same fate – which would rule him out of any further action at the tournament.

Former Terenure scrum-half Hegarty heads up the sports division at Dublin firm William Fry, who advised the IRFU on its bid to host World Cup 2023.

Schmidt said he would be “pretty disappointed” if Aki’s red card turned into a suspension for him to miss the remainder of the World Cup.

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