Banned Hodge says he didn't know penalty guide on tackles
TOKYO (AP) — Winger Reece Hodge put Australian rugby in more poor light when he claimed he didn't know World Rugby's decision-making framework for high tackles.
The framework gives officials guidance on whether an act of foul play is worthy of a sanction.
Hodge, a rugby professional for three years with 38 Wallabies caps, made the remarkable assertion in his defense against a citing for a dangerous high tackle at the Rugby World Cup.
In a report on the disciplinary hearing released on Thursday, a day after Hodge was suspended for the Wallabies' remaining three pool games, the disciplinary committee was taken aback and concerned by Hodge's claim.
The committee noted: "The Player conceded that he had no effective knowledge of WR's "Decision making framework for high tackles"; had not been trained on it; was not across it because the tackles he makes are predominantly in the waist to knees area. (To the Panel, this was of some general concern ...)."
Hodge was found guilty of a dangerous high tackle on Fiji flanker Peceli Yato in their match last weekend.
The panel disagreed with Hodge's defense that Yato hit him and not the other way round; that Hodge initially intended to tackle him hip high; that Yato lowered himself before the tackle; and that the tackle was reactionary.
The committee noted by Hodge's feet placement and shoulder movement, that he turned his right shoulder inwards and slightly upward before hitting Yato's left jaw.
Yato said in a statement for Hodge's hearing that he blacked out from the hit and didn't wake up until he was on his back. Fiji said he was still suffering on Wednesday, four days after the hit, from headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and loss of focus, and was in no shape to begin protocols to return to play.
Hodge wasn't sanctioned on the field. The committee noted New Zealand referee Ben O'Keeffe and Irish touch judge Andrew Brace were behind the players and had virtually no view of the impact. The Television Match Official, Rowan Kitt of England, watched two angles of the impact and didn't see any foul either.
The committee decided Hodge committed a reckless high tackle with "a high degree of danger" that was worthy of a red card. He will miss Australia's three remaining Pool D games against Wales, Uruguay, and Georgia. He can appeal.
Hodge's ignorance of the framework wouldn't wash with Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde, who said on Thursday all of the Wales squad were in the know.
"They are aware of the sanctions and protocols they go through to reach those decisions," McBryde said. "It's a tough one. Anybody who has played rugby knows that things happen in a split second. The aggressive nature and collision dominance that is spoken about both in attack and defense just means you have to be bang on the money.
"Easier said than done when the fatigue has set in and if the conditions are humid and players are tired. That is generally when errors are made. The players are more than aware of the sanctions and hopefully, we won't see too many of them during the World Cup."
Wales lock Jake Ball believed Hodge's three-match ban was the right decision.
"You can't get away with it now, no arms and any contact with the head," Ball said. "As a player, all you can do is try and avoid that situation. Sometimes it's not easy and sometimes things happen quickly in a game. You just have to do what you can do."