Ireland centre Bundee Aki and France lock Paul Willemse are both sent off
Two red cards on Six Nations Super Saturday
Bundee Aki and Paul Willemse both saw red on a dramatic final day of the 2021 Six Nations.
Ireland centre Aki was first to be dismissed for a high tackle, being sent off midway through the second half of Ireland’s final Six Nations match against England.
And France lock Willemse followed in the evening match against Wales. He cleared out Wyn Jones from a ruck with an illegal neck roll and made contact with the prop’s eyes in the same action. Referee Luke Pearce issued the appropriate sanction.
Not only was he sent off but the foul play meant a try by Brice Dulin, that would have put France within five points of Wales with a conversion to come, was disallowed.
Aki’s red card was the second of his Test career as he was sent off in the first half against Samoa at the 2019 World Cup for a high hit on Ulupano Seuteni.
The incident against England happened in the 63rd minute with Ireland leading 26-6. Aki went in for a tackle on Billy Vunipola and play was stopped immediately because the England No 8 looked badly hurt.
As he received treatment, referee Mathieu Raynal reviewed the decision with the Television Match Official (TMO) and as Aki had made direct contact with Vunipola’s head, with no mitigation for the No 8 suddenly dropping his height, it was a sending off.
Raynal explained the decision to Ireland captain Johnny Sexton and Aki, saying: “There was no sudden drop in height, the target was high and it was direct contact to the head, which was really dangerous and at speed, so it’s a red card.”
The sending off didn’t affect the result, albeit that England scored a couple of late tries, as Ireland won comfortably 32-18.
It is the second red card for Ireland in this championship after Peter O’Mahony was sent off for a dangerous charge at a ruck early in the match against Wales.
Willemse’s red card was part of an extraordinary finale, with France scoring in stoppage time to win 32-30 and deny Wales a Grand Slam.
Scotland prop Zander Fagerson was another who has seen red in the 2021 Six Nations. He was sent off for a similar offence to O’Mahony’s in the second half of Scotland’s round two fixture against Wales.
It is all part of a zero tolerance approach to dangerous hits to the head with the aim of improving player safety.
Related: Rugby red cards – sanctions for head contact explained
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