Storm brews over Healy ban that extends to France clash

Des Berry

THERE is a storm brewing between the IRFU and the Six Nations on the basis of hitting Ireland prop Cian Healy with a three-week suspension that, in reality, stretches to four weeks.

First, the Six Nations Disciplinary Committee (SNDC), comprising of Roger Morris (Chairman, Wales), Achille Reali (Italy) and Julien Berenger (France), decided to give Healy a five-week suspension, categorised as a mid-range punishment, for stamping on the leg of England tight-head prop Dan Cole.

It also allowed the maximum mitigation of two weeks for Healy's previously clean disciplinary record. This means the Irishman should be free to play against France on March 10th. Right? Wrong.

"In imposing a suspension of three weeks, recognised that the player would not have played for his province this weekend is that the suspension will end at midnight on Sunday, 10 March 2013," said the Six Nations statement last night.

This is the day after Ireland play France in the Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium, because the Six Nations Committee have deemed it necessary not to include the non-international week in which Leinster will play Benetton-Treviso in the PRO12 League on Saturday.

"We won't be making any decision on any possible appeal until we have received the written verdict over the next 24-to-48 hours," said IRFU spokesperson Karl Richardson last night.

This is a strange decision. It is based on the presumption by the SNDC that Healy won't be selected for Leinster this weekend.

In other words, it is intent on banning Healy for games to be played, not for time to be served which is an unusual approach from them.

In the past, there has been a mockery made out of suspensions based on time when there are no games or no big games included in the period.

For example, this can occur where a player is suspended for two months at the end of a season, effectively missing no game time.

The problem here is that the SNDC have clouded the issue by presuming that the IRFU will prevent Healy from playing this weekend. Why not award a six-week ban with a two-week reduction for good behaviour?

There must be little doubt that the IRFU will digest the verdict and respond with an appeal through the counsel of their legal expert Donal Spring, the former Ireland number eight.

Meanwhile, England U20 flanker Ross Moriarty has been handed a seven-week suspension for a dangerous tackle on Ireland scrum-half Luke McGrath at Dubarry Park last Friday night.

The Committee decided that the incident, for a "lifting tackle" contrary to Law 10.4(j) should be categorised as a mid-range offence in terms of seriousness, which carries a sanction of eight weeks.

The Committee added an additional two weeks to reflect the need for a deterrent for the type of tackle but allowed three weeks mitigation.