SCOTLAND were dealt a double blow to their Six Nations Championship hopes yesterday when stand-off Finn Russell was cited for dangerous play and prop Jon Welsh learned he is likely to miss the rest of the tournament through injury.
Russell could be suspended for one or more of his team’s three remaining matches if it is decided he should have been red-carded rather than yellow-carded in Sunday’s 26-23 defeat by Wales, while Scottish Rugby have said Welsh, who has a hand fracture. is “expected to be unavailable” for the games against Italy, England and Ireland.
Russell was sinbinned by referee Glen Jackson after a collision with Wales’s Dan Biggar, who had leapt to catch a high ball. The Scotland No 10 turned his back on his opposite number, apparently in an attempt to avoid getting a knee in the face. But yesterday independent citing commissioner Eugene Ryan of Ireland ruled that the case should be looked into further, meaning that Russell faces a hearing this week before an independent three-person disciplinary committee. He has been cited under two sections of Law 10.4: clause (e) “Dangerous tackling. A player must not tackle an opponent whose feet are off the ground”, and close (j): “Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.”
If the committee decides that Russell should have been red-carded under either clause, they will then determine whether his breach of the law merits a low, medium or high tariff. In the case of Law 10.4 e, the guidelines are bans of two weeks, six weeks, or ten-plus weeks for a low, medium or high tariff respectively. In the case of clause j, the guidelines are slightly harsher – four, eight and 12-plus weeks.
Mitigating factors such as a clean record can be taken into account, so that for example a guideline of two weeks could be reduced to one. A player given such a suspension by the committee has 48 hours in which to appeal, although if the suspension is upheld it runs from the date of the original hearing. In other words, if for example Russell is given a one-week ban on Wednesday, he would be free to face Italy on Saturday week.
Welsh will undergo surgery on his hand later this week, and although he has not definitely been ruled out of the coming games, he would have to recover unusually quickly to be involved even against Ireland in the final match on Saturday 21 March.
Gordon Reid, another replacement prop, had to be taken off after getting a blow to the head and also straining a knee. He was said to be symptom-free after the head knock, but his injury is being treated as a concussion. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne also showed mild symptoms of a possible concussion and will be treated accordingly, while Richie Gray is awaiting the results of a scan on an arm injury.
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