Darcy Swain, the Australia lock, has been banned for six weeks after a disciplinary panel found that his clean-out on New Zealand centre Quinn Tupaea was "highly reckless but unintentional".
The incident, in which Swain entered a ruck and made firm contact with the All Black’s outstretched left leg, occurred in the 35th minute of last week's thrilling Bledisloe Cup match and left Tupaea with a ruptured medial cruciate ligament and a partial anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee. Swain only received a yellow card for his actions but was cited after the Rugby Championship match at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium.
The ban imposed by a Sanzaar judicial committee hearing will last until November 6, ruling Swain out of Saturday’s return, as well as the tour matches against Scotland at Murrayfield on October 30 and France in Paris on November 6.
Swain was also named in the squad for next month’s Australia A tour of Japan, which might have made him available for the full national team earlier had the suspension been based on a certain number of matches, but any controversy over that selection is now moot since his ban is based on time.
Swain was found guilty of contravening Law 9.11 - "Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others" - which the chair of the judicial committee, Andre Oosthuizen SC, said met the threshold for a red card.
After the Test, the All Blacks coach Ian Foster said: “We’ve got a player who’s probably out for nine months and you’re not allowed to target legs on the side at cleanout past the ball. The rules are pretty clear.”
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was of a different opinion.
“I’m not convinced about Darcy’s [yellow card],” Rennie said. “It was certainly nothing intentional. Ironically, he got neck-rolled prior to him cleaning out, but that wasn’t picked up.”
The incident was not the only major talking point to come out of the controversial Test in Melbourne. Swain's clear-out was overshadowed by the dramatic finale, where French referee Mathieu Raynal penalised Australia fly-half Bernard Foley for time-wasting and awarded New Zealand a five-metre scrum. From that set-piece, full-back Jordie Barrett scored the winning try with the clock in the red to break Wallaby hearts.