16 Oct 2011

Wales captain suspended for three weeks

8:11 pm on 16 October 2011

Wales rugby captain, Sam Warburton, has been suspended from play for three weeks for the spear tackle that earned him a red card in his country's Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat to France.

The hearing has just concluded, with the IRB's judiciary effectively endorsing the referee's controversial decision to send Warburton off less than 20 minutes into the game.

The 23-year-old flanker was dismissed by referee Alain Rolland for the dangerous tackle on winger Vincent Clerc inside the first quarter of Saturday's match at Eden Park, which the French edged 9-8 despite a brave performance from the Welsh.

Wales coach Warren Gatland condemned the punishment as excessive for a tackle that Warburton maintained was not malicious, suggesting that a yellow card and 10 minutes in the sin-bin would have been more appropriate.

Spear or tip tackling, where a player lifts an opponent into the air and returns them to the ground head first, is outlawed because of the potential for head injuries and the governing International Rugby Board (IRB) issued a statement on Sunday reiterating their zero tolerance on dangerous tackles.

Warburton will now miss the third and fourth place playoff against the losers of Sunday's second semi-final between the All Blacks and the Wallabies.

The playoff between the losers of the two semi-finals is usually a match which has little appeal for fans and players alike.

Having exceeded expectations with their run to the semi-finals, however, many of the Wales players said they would be taking the game very seriously.

"Before the tournament nobody gave us a shot of coming third in the World Cup, so we'll definitely be up for it," centre Jonathan Davies said after the match.