RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION

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1 RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION DISCIPLINARY HEARING Held at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury 13 January 2015 Player: George KRUIS Club: Saracens Match: Gloucester v Saracens Venue: Kingsholm Date of match: 9 January 2015 Panel: Jeremy Summers (Chairman), Inigo Churchill and Meg Gardiner ( the Panel ) Secretary: Rebecca Morgan In Attendance: George Kruis ( the Player ). Edward Griffiths, CEO Saracens. DECISION 1. The Player accepted that he had committed an act of foul play in that he had dangerously tackled an opponent contrary to Law 10.4 (e). For the reasons set out below he was suspended for a period of 3 weeks. The suspension is imposed to run from 13 January 2015 until 2 February The Player is accordingly free to play on 3 February PRELIMINARY ISSUES 2. The Player did not object to appointment of the Panel. The Player confirmed that he had received the evidence in the RFU Hearing Pack and match footage in good time. 3. The Player had been cited for an offence contrary to 10.4 (e) of the Laws of the Game being a dangerous tackle. 4. Having regard to the dynamics of the incident the Panel carefully considered whether the charge required amending to one contrary to Law 10.4 (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. That offence is often colloquially described as a dangerous tip tackle. 1

2 5. The Panel determined that the Player had been correctly cited for an offence contrary to Law 10.4 (e). In so doing it found that the tackled player (G14) had been lifted from the ground and, in that the Player had then come down on top of G14, could be viewed as having been driven into the ground such as to engage those two elements of Law 10.4 (j). 6. However, G14 s head did not then come into contact with the ground whilst his feet were still off the ground. Similarly neither his neck, nor others areas that could reasonably be viewed as his upper body, came into contact with the ground whilst his feet were still of the ground. 7. But for the positioning of the ball which was held under G14 s right arm it is highly probable that he would have landed almost flat on his chest. G14 came down on top of the ball before spinning to his right at which point the side of his right shoulder did make contact with the ground. However by that stage his feet were no longer in the air and therefore all the elements required for an offence under Law 10.4 (j) were not engaged. CHARGE AND POSITION 8. The charge was read to the Player who formally accepted that he had dangerously tackled an opponent contrary to Law 10.4 (e). 9. The Panel considered: THE CITING i. The Citing Report. ii. The match footage. iii. Oral evidence from the Player. iv. Submissions on behalf of the Player. 10. The Citing Report read as follows: From a Saracens restart the Gloucester no 14, David Halaifonua caught the ball inside his own 22 and ran forward strongly. He was tackled initially by the Saracens No 4 George Kruis and No 22 Nick Tomkins, who then played no further part in the tackle. Kruis tackled Halaifonua around the thigh area and proceeded to lift the Gloucester player so that his legs were above the parallel and then started to drive the Gloucester player to the ground, letting go on the way down. Halaifonua got his left arm out on the way down to break the fall and twisted to land on his right front shoulder, his head did not make contact with the ground. The referee blew his whistle immediately and asked the TMO to review the incident. After a number of replays he decided the tackle was dangerous and awarded a yellow card. Upon further review, I have decided to cite George Kruis under Law 10.4(e) Dangerous Tackling. The tackle was inherently dangerous even though there was no injury. 2

3 11. The Citing Report was reviewed with the Player who confirmed he did not challenge the overall detail as set out. He would though assert that he had not driven G14 to the ground and that the tackle had not been inherently dangerous. 12. The incident had occurred in the 61 st minute of the match at which juncture Gloucester were leading The Report indicated that G14 received on field treatment but was able immediately to play on. 13. The match footage was then viewed. In advance of the hearing the Chairman had prepared a narrative of what he considered the footage showed. This narrative was reviewed whilst the footage was played with the Player and Mr Griffiths who confirmed that they broadly agreed with the assessment of the footage as follows. 14. G14 is seen to catch the ball as reported in the Citing Report. He is broadly centre field about 10m inside his own 22. He then runs a direct line towards the 22m line before his run is stopped by the Player and another defender (S22) just inside the 22. G14 leads with his right leg into the contact and the Player is crouched at almost 45 degrees to effect the tackle. S22 is upright as G14 makes contact. Both S22 s hands are seen to make brief and light contact on G14 s upper body. 15. G14 s right foot is flat on the ground at the point of impact. The Player initially wraps both arms around G14 s left leg with his left arm being higher than his right. His head is positioned to the side of G14 s right waste/buttock. 16. Almost immediately the Player s left arm comes off G14 s left leg and takes hold of the upper inside of G14 s right thigh, before it slipped down slightly towards the bend between G14 s thigh and knee. 17. The Player then drives through the tackle. As he does so, and whilst still holding G14 s right leg, his left elbow is seen to be raised from a position where it is broadly horizontal with the ground to one which is almost vertical to the ground. 18. At the point at which the Player s elbow starts the lift, G14 s right foot can still be seen in contact with the ground. The lifting action by the Player takes G14 s right leg off the ground, through the horizontal plain and into a near vertical position. 19. This in turn rotates G14 s body up towards a vertical position. Whilst his legs do go toward the vertical G14 s upper body though remains substantially more horizontal to the ground. 20. G14 retains possession of the football as he is lifted holding it under his right arm. As he comes down he reaches out with his left arm to break his fall. 21. G14 s right arm and the ball then come into contact with the ground. He immediately then slides/spins to his right coming over the ball which can then be seen at the side of his body as G14 attempts to lay it back. Whilst the right side of G14 s body, including his shoulder, does come into contact with the ground his feet are no longer off the ground as it does so. 22. Confirmation was received from Gloucester that no injury was sustained by G14. 3

4 MITIGATION 23. The Player gave evidence. He noted that G14 was quite tall and had not been well balanced at the point the tackle had been made due to his having been in an upright position as contact was made. He felt that G14 had known that he was in a bad position and had therefore twisted in an attempt to lay the ball back. This has affected to the dynamics of the contact. 24. G14 was a big man weighing around 120kg who had run into contact at full speed. At the time the Player had felt he had made a good tackle which had driven G14 backwards. He thought that G14 had known he would not win the contact and had almost given up. In his view G14 had become off balance in trying to place the ball back and that this had contributed to G14 being lifted from the ground. 25. The Player was asked about the lifting action which saw his elbow bend and rise upwards and in particular what he was trying to achieve by that action. He indicated that the incident had occurred too quickly for him to be able to recall the detail but he was clear that he had not acted maliciously and had effected an innocent tackle that had then gone wrong. 26. Mr Griffiths noted that the Player is 24 and had come through the Saracens Academy. His career has progressed to international level where he gained 4 caps in the 2014 Autumn Internationals. In tandem with developing his playing career he has also secured a 1 st class Business Management degree. His disciplinary record was previously unblemished and as a player he upholds the core values of the game. 27. He asked whether the tackle could be viewed as inherently dangerous. In his view it could not. He noted that G14 was off balance and that his rear (left) leg had lifted at the point of impact. G14 s centre of gravity was substantially higher than normal and higher than the Player might have anticipated. The Player had attempted to tackle low and drive G14 which was entirely legitimate. 28. He further did not consider that the Player had tipped G14. He had executed a lawful leg drive and had not expected that his action would lift G14. That had occurred not simply as a result of the Player s actions but also in consequence of two other factors. Firstly the fact that G14 had tried to twist away from the contact to present the ball and secondly the efforts of S22 in trying to assist the tackle. 29. The incident had happened very quickly but the Player had not driven G14 into the ground. In his submission the Referee had correctly asked where G14 would have made contact with the ground had he not used his arm to break his fall. In Mr Griffith s view G14 would have landed on his chest. 30. In his view the whole fall had primarily been determined by G14 s twist and the offending should be assessed as being low end. DECISION 31. The Panel carefully considered the evidence and Mr Griffith s helpful submissions. It found that the Player had lifted G14 from the ground and noted the clear evidence from the footage of the Player s left elbow and arm rising to a near vertical position whilst still holding G14 s right leg. 4

5 32. The Player had then continued to drive through and into G14 causing G14 s right leg to be taken through the horizontal plain to a position close to vertical. This then caused G14 to flip backwards toward the ground in a position of danger. The Player continued to be in contact with G14 as he fell so adding to the force of G14 s fall. 33. The Panel was not able to accept the Player s case that the tackle had become dangerous as a result of G14 s own actions, and found that this had resulted chiefly from the Player lifting G14 in the tackle. 34. The actions of S22 did not in the Panel s view contribute in any material way to the dynamics of the tackle. 35. It was not argued that the offending did not warrant a red card and the Panel was satisfied to the standard required that the citing should be upheld. 36. The Panel then proceeded to consider the appropriate entry point as required by RFU Regulation In so doing it made the following findings: a) On the Player s own case the offending involved an intentional lift of G14. b) The offending was otherwise found to be reckless and not malicious; c) Mr Griffiths accepted that player safety was critical and the gravity of the Player s actions in relation to the offending arose from the risk of injury that taking an opponent through the horizontal clearly presents; d) The offending was as described in paragraphs 31 and 32 above. G14, who as the Player noted is a heavy man, had been lifted off the ground to some height, taken through the horizontal and into a dangerous position. There was no apparent effort made to attempt to bring G14 down safely; e) There was no issue of provocation; f) The offending was not retaliatory; g) The Player was not acting in self defence; h) There was no injury; i) The incident produced some reaction from other players but not such as was material to the assessment of the offending; j) There is clear vulnerability to a player when he is taken to through the horizontal and a tackler s body weight then comes down on that player to add to the momentum of the subsequent fall; k) The offending was not premediated; l) The conduct was completed; m) There were no other relevant features relating to or connected with the offending. 37. Having made those findings the Panel determined that the offending should be assessed as being at the MID-RANGE of the scale of seriousness. 38. The mid-range entry point for a dangerous tackle is a suspension of 6 weeks. 39. None of the aggravating factors prescribed by RFU Regulation were found to be relevant to the offending. 40. Having regard to the Player s plea, clear record, remorse and conduct at the hearing the Panel felt able to apply the maximum permitted reduction of 50% from the entry point as provided for by Regulations and

6 41. The Player was accordingly suspended for a total period of 3 weeks as set out at paragraph 1 above. The suspension will require the Player to miss the next two rounds of the European Rugby Cup and an LV Cup fixture on 31 January COSTS 42. Standard costs of 500 are ordered to be paid by the Player or his club as prescribed by Appendix 3 to Regulation 19. APPEAL 43. The parties are reminded of the right of appeal provided for under Regulation 19. Jeremy Summers Chairman 14 January

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