Wales’ back-up scrum-half Richie Rees is out of the Six Nations after having been banned until 31 March. Rees, the Cardiff Blues player, appeared before an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin on Thurs, 6 January aas a result of the citing complaint arising from the Heineken Cup Pool 1 match against Northampton Saints at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday, 19 December, 2010.
The citing complaint made by the Citing Commissioner for the match, Murray Whyte (Ireland), was for acts contrary to good sportsmanship in contravention of law 10.4(m) in that Mr Rees had made contact with the eye/eye area of Northampton Saints hooker Dylan Hartley (No 2) 30 minutes into the first half.
Rees pleaded not guilty to the complaint on the basis that any contact had been accidental. The independent Judicial Officer, Pat Barriscale (Ireland), reviewed all of the evidence, including several angles of the incident from television footage and medical statements relating to the injuries sustained by Mr Hartley.
The Judicial Officer heard oral evidence from Mr Hartley (by telephone) and Mr Rees, and also heard submissions on behalf of Mr Rees from Cardiff Blues’ Chief Executive, Robert Norster, and on behalf of ERC Disciplinary Officer, Roger O’Connor.
The Judicial Officer determined that Mr Rees was guilty of foul play in contravention of Law 10.4(m) in that he had made contact with the eye/eye area of Mr Hartley. The Judicial Officer found that the contact had been reckless and not intentional.
The Judicial Officer found that the offending was at the low end of the level of seriousness for an offence of this type, and having taken into account all aggravating and mitigating factors imposed a suspension of 12 weeks. Mr Rees is free to play again on 31 March, 2011.
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Under the IRB Recommended Sanctions for Offences Committed within the Playing Enclosure, contact with the eye/eye area in contravention of Law 10.4(m) carries the following recommended sanctions – Low End: 12 weeks; Mid Range: 18 weeks; Top End: 24 to 156 weeks
Cardiff Blues await written submission from the ERC and have no further comment to make on the matter until that is received.