Ireland fly specialist lawyer to Japan in bid to keep Aki’s World Cup alive

The Connacht centre was sent off for a high tackle on UJ Seuteni in Ireland’s 47-5 win over Samoa on Saturday.

By Press Association Published: 13 October 2019 - 4.28am
Rugby Union

Northern Ireland

Republic of Ireland

Ireland are flying a specialist lawyer into Japan in a bid to keep Bundee Aki’s 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.

Ireland v Samoa – Pool A – 2019 Rugby World Cup – Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium
Ireland hope Bundee Aki, pictured, will be cleared to play again at the World Cup (Adam Davy/PA)

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.

“I'd like to think there's a bit of feel in and around the whole situation”
- Andy Farrell

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.

While assistant coach Farrell remained fairly tight-lipped on views on Aki, the former dual-code rugby international admitted Ireland were delighted to have reached the World Cup’s knockout phase.

“It’s all about moving onto the next round, which we’re pretty pleased with, to get a chance to go for a quarter-final,” said Farrell.

“We’re pretty pleased with how we dealt with and managed the game against Samoa. It was tricky enough conditions.

“I don’t think watching on TV at home you’d have been able to tell, but it was very blustery out there and I thought we managed the conditions pretty well.

“We played a good bit of territory in the first-half and got a good bit of reward of that.

“It was tough playing against the wind in the second-half, but then we managed to stay in the Samoa 22 for a good while.

“So overall we’re very pleased to be sat here with a win.”