1 Aug 2015

SANZAR appeal Hooper punishment

11:40 am on 1 August 2015

Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper's hopes of facing the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship decider in Sydney next week have suffered a blow.

Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper, Rugby Championship, Australia v South Africa, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia, July 18, 2015

Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper Photo: Photosport

Governing body SANZAR have launched an appeal against the one-week ban he was handed for striking Argentina's Nicolas Sanchez last weekend.

The Australian Rugby Union say they intend to not only vigourously defend Hooper against further punishment but also appeal the original ban.

The former Wallabies captain landed the blow after being held back by Pumas first five Sanchez while trying to support Dean Mumm, as the Australian lock charged to the line to score a try in their 34-9 victory last weekend in Mendoza.

After six hours of deliberations over Wednesday and Thursday, the judicial officer handed Hooper a two-week ban for "striking or punching", which was reduced to one week because of his exemplary record.

Although Australia do not have a Test this weekend, Hooper will miss a match for his club Manly and then be free to play for his country in the Rugby Championship decider against New Zealand in Sydney next Saturday, August 8th.

SANZAR, however, said on Friday that an appeal against the punishment would be heard by a three-man committee on Sunday, a decision that left the ARU "extremely disappointed".

"The ARU will vigorously defend the SANZAR appeal on the severity of the sanction handed to the player," the ARU said in a statement.

"Furthermore, the ARU intends to cross-appeal the judicial officer's original finding that the player was guilty of committing an act of foul play."

Judicial officer Nigel Hampton said in his finding that the flanker "had struck out at the opponent's head and neck area with his open hand" and that Hooper's affection for his club meant that missing the game was a punishment.

Australia coach Michael Cheika is likely to be furious at the distraction ahead of such a big Test, particularly as he felt Hooper had been guilty of no more violence than would be used in a hand-off or fend.

"We're still disappointed that he was found guilty because he was really adamant about the open hand and the push to the back," Cheika told reporters earlier on Friday.

Although Australia also have David Pocock to fill the number seven shirt, Cheika has used both openside flankers in the closing stages of the first two matches of the championship.

The Wallabies could secure a first southern hemisphere title since the similarly truncated 2011 Tri-Nations if they can beat the All Blacks in Sydney.

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