SCOTTISH Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson has called for consistency from the game’s governing body after confirming he was appealling the three-match bans handed out to Jonny Gray and Ross Ford by World Rugby.
The Scots are contesting the length of the ban rather than the judgment itself which suggests the best they can hope for is a reduction in suspension to one week, which would allow one or both of the players to be available for the World Cup semi-final should Scotland defeat Australia in Sunday’s quarter-final at Twickenham.
The mood in the camp is downbeat, however. Coach Vern Cotter is resigned to facing the Wallabies with just two recognised locks in his 23-strong matchday squad, with fingers crossed that both Richie Gray and Tim Swinson go the distance if needs be.
Jonny Gray and Ford were banned following an incident at a breakdown in Saturday’s Pool B clash with Samoa in which their flanker, Jack Lam, landed awkwardly. The case came to light following the intervention of the Independent Citing Commissioner and subsequent ruling by the Judicial Officer, Christopher Quinlan QC.
Dodson said: “We hold Ross and Jonny in very high regard and as a result will be launching a robus appeal to challenge their suspensions, which we feel are unduly harsh.
“I have raised their case with [World Rugby chief executive] Brett Gosper and asked for consistency in how such incidents are punished.
“It is clear other Unions are also seeking better clarity on the use of citing and the interpretation of how key areas ofthe game are scrutinised and the subsequent levels of punishment set.”
The SRU also stressed that “both players have exemplary records” and that “their actions had no malice or harmful intention”.
“Ross and Jonny have both expressed their surprise and disappointment at the three-week suspension which has been handed down,” the statement added.
The full transcription of the original hearing was made available online and highlighted the deep-rooted problems which blight this World Cup, namely that a QC can ignore the opinion of a highly regarded, top-flight international referee of many years standing such as Jaco Peyper, who gave his testimony to the hearing by telephone.
Pyper stated: “I can confirm I indeed saw the incident live referred to in the citing complaint. Samoa No 7 found himself in position competing for the ball with his head below his hips already. The Scotland arriving players, Scotland 5 and 2 in an attempt to remove the threat to possession as per normal and in the dynamics lifted Samoa 7’s legs and he tumbled over, However the player supported on his hands through out. After our internal performance review process I am satisfied that that I dealt with the incident appropriately.”
Peyper awarded Samoa a penalty because a Scottish player was holding on to the ball and he didn’t speak to either Ford or Gray about the incident involving Lam.
The QC, Quinlan, stated that the last line of Peyper’s testimony was inadmissible because it was opinion and the referee could only contribute fact and, as such, he ignored it.
In a witness statement Lam stated that he had no particular recollection of the incident and he was not injured during it.
At just 21, Gray will, hopefully, have a good few opportunities in front of him, but Ford will be 35 when the 2019 Rugby World Cup takes place in Japan and this is probably his last kick at the ball.
Brett Gosper, the chief executive of World Rugby, tweeted yesterday: “We will review all aspects of #RWC2015 (disciplinary included) post comp. Always open to and seeking improvement.”
That will be too late to help either Scot.