Scotland prop Rory Sutherland has been cleared to play in the Six Nations opener against England following his weekend red card for Worcester.
Sutherland was sent off after just 75 seconds of Worcester’s 22-19 Gallagher Premiership defeat at Bath on Sunday for making illegal contact with the head of opponent Will Stuart.
The British and Irish Lions international has received a three-week ban for dangerous tackling in contrary to World Rugby Law 9.13, clearing him to play against England at Murrayfield on February 5.
The 27-year-old could still be available for the Warriors’ next Premiership game at home to Northampton on January 29 if he successfully completes a World Rugby coaching course.
Panel chair Charles Cuthbert said: “The player accepted that he had committed an act of foul play in which his head had made direct contact with that of the opposing player.
“It was not accepted that the act merited a red card.
“The player sought to persuade the panel that when applying the Head Contact Process (HCP) it was possible to apply mitigating factors on account of the ball carrier’s sideways step shortly before contact.
“The panel considered the oral submissions from the club and the player as well as those of the RFU but did not find that the movement of the Bath player was sufficient to allow a reduction from red card to yellow card. The charge was therefore upheld.
“The player had accepted that he committed an act of foul play, has a clean disciplinary record and was open and direct in response to questions asked.
“The panel allowed 50 per cent mitigation accordingly. There were no aggravating features present and therefore the sanction remains three weeks.
“The player sought permission to apply to World Rugby to take part in the Coaching Intervention Programme which the panel approved.
“If the player successfully completes the coaching course, he will be available for the game against Northampton Saints.”
Sutherland will definitely miss Worcester’s European Challenge Cup matches against Toulon and Zebre.
Exeter prop Alec Hepburn, meanwhile, has received a three-week suspension after being sent off for a tip tackle in the Chiefs’ 14-12 Premiership defeat at Harlequins last Saturday.
Cuthbert said: “The player accepted that he had committed an act of foul play and that the act merited the award of a red card.
“The panel agreed with the submissions of both the club and the RFU that the appropriate entry point was low end.
“Allowing 50 per cent mitigation on the basis of his acceptance of the charge, his clean record and his engagement with the process, the panel imposed a three-week suspension which means the player is free to play on February 1.”
Hepburn will miss Exeter’s Heineken Champions Cup games against Glasgow and Montpellier and the Premiership visit to London Irish.
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