Ross Ford and Jonny Gray banned for remainder of World Cup

Scotland players Jonny Gray, right, and Ross Ford
Scotland players Jonny Gray, right, and Ross Ford
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SCOTLAND forwards Jonny Gray and Ross Ford have both been thrown out of the Rugby World Cup for dangerous tackling after receiving three-week bans on citation by the tournament’s judicial panel last night.

Glasgow lock Gray and Edinburgh hooker Ford were cited by independent commissioner Scott Nowland of Australia for a second-half incident during the 36-33 Pool B win over Samoa at St James’ Park. Nowland’s report was upheld by the independent Judicial Officer Christopher Quinlan QC of England and both players have now been ruled out of Sunday’s quarter-final against Australia at Twickenham and any subsequent games in the tournament.

The players denied committing an act of foul play at yesterday’s hearing and have 48 hours to appeal. A Scotland team spokesperson said last night: “We are disappointed by the outcome of today’s discipline hearing, and subsequent suspension of Ross Ford and Jonny Gray.

“We will consider carefully the full written judgment of Judicial Officer Christopher Quinlan QC before making a decision on any future action.”

Gray and Ford were involved in a tackle on Samoa’s Jack Lam and it has been deemed that their actions were contrary to a 2009 memorandum from the sport’s governing body which covered “tackles involving a player being lifted off the ground and tipped horizontally and then either forced or dropped to the ground”.

Judicial Officer Quinlan deemed the offences merited four weeks but added one week for aggravation “due to the need to deter this type of dangerous foul play”. The World Rugby statement added: “Taking into account mitigating factors including the players’ conduct prior to and at the hearing, their expressions of regret, exemplary characters and excellent disciplinary records, the Judicial Officer reduced the suspension to a period of three weeks.”

The loss of first-choice lock Gray and Scotland’s most capped forward Ford is a huge blow to head coach Vern Cotter ahead of this weekend’s last-eight clash with the Wallabies and the fact that the citing commissioner who made the complaint is from Australia is likely to remain a controversial talking point. Fraser Brown and Kevin Bryce provide cover at hooker but Scotland’s resources in the second row are thin after the loss of Grant Cilchrist following the second pool match against United States. Cotter opted then to replace the injured Edinburgh lock with flanker Blair Cowan, leaving Tim Swinson as the only specialist to partner Jonny’s brother Richie in the engine room, with potential cover coming from back-rowers David Denton and Josh Strauss.

Yesterday’s hearing was due to start at 11am but it was after 9pm when the decision finally came. Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien received a one-week suspension for punching Pascal Pape during Sunday’s match against France.

Former Scotland wing Kenny Logan branded the decision a ‘sick joke’, pointing to Australia captain David Pocock’s yellow card issued post-match for kneeing Wales hooker Scott Baldwin in the back.

Logan, who played for Scotland between 1992 and 2003, told the Telegraph: “Pocock clearly knees Baldwin in the back but gets off with a slap on the wrist, and Ireland’s Sean O’Brien gets a week ban after a premeditated punch on Pascal Pape in full sight of the referee, while two Scottish players with a perfect disciplinary record get a three-week ban for clearing out a player with no malicious intent at a ruck just because he fell awkwardly.

“There is no level playing field. This is a shameful decision.”

A statement from the Scottish management team expressed ‘disappointment’ at the decision. They have 48 hours to challenge the ruling, with Logan believing that there are grounds for an appeal for both players.

Logan explained: “I feel particularly sorry for Ross Ford. He’s not even looking at [Jack] Lam and has absolutely no part in how the player falls.

“There have been countless worse incidents at this World Cup and if we’re going to ban players for this then let’s ban any prop who collapses a scrum because that’s far more likely to damage a player’s neck or head.”

Meanwhile, Craig Joubert of South Africa has been appointed referee for Scotland’s quarter-final against Australia.