Ireland’s Bundee Aki banned for rest of Rugby World Cup

Ireland’s Bundee Aki will miss the rest of the Rugby World Cup in Japan after receiving a three-game ban for his red card against Samoa.

The 29-year-old centre was sent off in Ireland’s win over the Samoans on Saturday, for a high tackle on UJ Seuteni.

Aki faced a disciplinary hearing in Tokyo on Monday night, contesting the red card in a bid to be available for his side’s quarter-final clash with New Zealand this Saturday.

However, he ultimately failed in that quest and was handed a suspension that would even rule him out of the final – if Ireland were to make it that far.

A World Rugby statement said: “The player sought to overturn the red card.

“Having considered all the angles of the incident, together with evidence from the player and his representatives, the committee upheld the decision of the referee.”

Ireland's Bundee Aki after receiving a red card against Samoa. Credit: INPHO

The independent disciplinary committee of Adam Casselden, Frank Hadden and Valeriu Toma rejected Aki’s and Ireland’s attempts to have the red card rescinded.

That leaves head coach Joe Schmidt’s men one player short for the remainder of the tournament.

Aki would have been pushing hard for a start in Saturday’s game against the All Blacks, but his absence could pave the way for fit-again Robbie Henshaw to partner Garry Ringrose in midfield.

Aki has 48 hours to appeal the decision, so has the right to launch a further challenge. But precious few attempts yield a reversal of the original ruling.

Ireland flew out specialist lawyer Derek Hegarty to Japan for Aki's disciplinary hearing, but the William Fry partner was unable to convince the panel to overturn the red card decision.

World Rugby ruled there were no “clear and obvious mitigating factors” to account for Aki's high tackle, and imposed an initial six-week suspension that was halved on account of the Connacht star’s good disciplinary record.

Head coach Schmidt had hinted Ireland would respect the outcome of the disciplinary hearing come what may, when speaking straight after the weekend’s bonus-point win over Samoa.

“Once it’s a red card, you sense a loss of control over what happens next, no matter what you try to present,” he said.

“There is a very hard line being taken and we’ll just have to accept whatever decision is made by the judiciary.”