Ireland and Connacht centre Bundee Aki has been handed a four-match ban following his high tackle on Billy Vunipola during Saturday’s 32-18 win over England.
Aki became the first Irish player in history to receive two red cards at Test level after making contact with the head of Vunipola in the second half of the Guinness Six Nations clash in Dublin.
An independent disciplinary committee accepted the challenge was “reckless rather than deliberate or intentional” and deemed it “just inches too high”.
The 30-year-old will now miss Connacht’s Challenge Cup last-16 tie with Leicester on Saturday, April 3, as well as the province’s following three games either in Europe or the Rainbow Cup.
“The disciplinary committee determined that the suspension should cover Mr Aki’s next four matches for Connacht in competitions organised by EPCR (European Professional Club Rugby) or Pro Rugby Championship,” read a statement.
Aki, who was previously sent off against Samoa at the 2019 World Cup, accepted during his hearing that he had committed an act of foul play and it warranted a red card.
With the entry point for the offence set at six weeks, he was denied the maximum 50 per cent discount because of his previous disciplinary record but his sanction was reduced by two weeks, partly due to his “clear remorse and concern for the welfare of Mr Vunipola”.
Vunipola was left motionless on the Aviva Stadium pitch following the 63rd-minute collision before being replaced.
Speaking about the incident in the aftermath of the game, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said: “It’s a tough one. The rules are the rules but at the same time Billy seemed to be on a downward motion certainly with his head.
“But if there’s any contact, they are very stringent with that at this moment in time.
“He’s gutted, Bundee. He’s good mates with Billy as well and he was in the tunnel making sure they’re still friends, which they definitely are.”
Aki received a three-week suspension for his World Cup red card following a high tackle on UJ Seuteni, causing him to miss the remainder of that tournament.
The New Zealand-born player, who has won 31 Test caps for Ireland, was making his first appearance of the 2021 Six Nations in place of the injured Garry Ringrose.