- Ludlow suspended for four weeks - read
- Hughes available to play on 20 November
Wasps forward Nathan Hughes has been suspended for six weeks.
Hughes appeared before a reconvened independent disciplinary panel on Wednesday, following the adjournment of his case on 10 October 2018.
He was cited by independent citing commissioner Andy Blyth following the match Wasps v Gloucester on Saturday 6 October 2018 for punching or striking Gloucester's Lewis Ludlow contrary to Law 9.12.
Hughes accepted the charge and was given a suspension by the independent panel comprising Gareth Graham (chair) with Matthew Weaver and Martyn Wood. Hughes is free to play again on Tuesday 20 November 2018.
"The Independent Panel convened to hear this case on Wednesday 10 October," said panel chair Graham.
"At that hearing, the Player pleaded guilty to the charge of striking an opponent and accepted that the starting point for that sanction would be mid-range as he had made contact with the opposition player’s head. This entry point is mandatory where an act of foul play makes contact with the head, as stipulated in the sanction table set by World Rugby and adopted in full by the RFU, and was not disputed by the Player.
"The Panel considered all of the mitigation put forward on the Player’s behalf and determined that he would be suspended for a period of 4 weeks leaving him eligible to play again on the 6 November.
"The Panel determined that the Player was not entitled to full credit because of a previous suspension in October 2017 however he was given credit for a guilty plea, the remorse that was inferred because of his plea and his conduct at the hearing.
"At the conclusion of the hearing on the 10 October, the club were advised that the usual process would be followed in respect of the issuing of a press release but that, in the interim, there was to be no comment on social media. This is standard protocol following a disciplinary hearing. Wasps had also advised the Player ahead of the hearing not to comment on social media.
"Notwithstanding that warning, on leaving the hearing, the Player tweeted via his personal account “what a joke” and this tweet came to the attention of the Panel shortly thereafter.
"The Panel called the Player back in to the hearing room and asked for submissions from the Player, his club representatives and the RFU as to how this additional matter should be dealt with.
"The Player accepted that the tweet was sent by him and that it was done out of frustration at the outcome. It was initially requested by both the Player and the RFU that the Panel should deal with the matter on that evening.
"However, in circumstances where the Player’s Senior legal Counsel had already left the venue by the time the tweet was discovered, it was agreed by all parties that in order for the Player and the RFU to seek further legal advice, the Panel would reconvene in 7 days time at which point the same Panel would consider what further sanction, if any, should be imposed upon the Player.
"The Player accepted that he was suspended in the intervening period having pleaded guilty to the charge but in any event having been suspended by the Independent Citing Commissioner he was suspended until such time as his case had concluded.
"Upon reconvening on the 17 October, detailed legal arguments were heard from the RFU and the Player through their legal representatives as to whether the tweet and the Player’s conduct should be considered in the context of the original sanction (i.e. whether or not he should be entitled to less mitigation) or whether it should be dealt with under a new charge on the basis that his conduct was “Prejudicial to the interests of the Union and/or the Game”, contrary to RFU Rule 5.12.
"At this reconvened hearing, the Player gave evidence in respect of the context of his tweet. During the course of that evidence, he went on to describe how his guilty plea had only been entered on advice and that he did not genuinely believe that he was guilty of the offence in question which ultimately led to his frustration as expressed in the tweet.
"As a result of this new evidence, the Panel determined that they should revisit the sanction previously issued on the 10 October as it changed the basis upon which it had arrived at the original decision. The act of sending the tweet was not considered relevant to the original sanction.
"Where the Player had previously been given credit for a guilty plea, remorse and good conduct, the Panel found that that mitigation had been given on a false premise. The Panel were mindful that under the Regulations, the discount available to a Player by way of mitigation starts at 0% and goes up to 50% assuming all factors are present.
"In this case, on the basis of this new evidence, the Panel did not consider that the Player warranted any reduction by way of mitigation. There was, therefore, no reason to reduce the sanction from the mandatory entry point of 6 weeks.
"The Player is not, at the time of the reconvened hearing, named in the England squad and therefore his sanction of 6 weeks will apply to the next Wasps fixtures.
"In respect of the tweet itself, at the outset of the hearing the RFU brought an additional charge of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Union and/or the Game to which the Player pleaded guilty.
"It was accepted by the Player through his legal counsel that the Panel were in a position to consider both the original sanction imposed and the new 5.12 charge jointly at the reconvened hearing.
"The Panel determined that the timing of the tweet immediately after the hearing, the context of it in terms of the Player’s own acceptance of punching an opponent and the fact that he has a significant twitter following of over 7000 warranted an additional playing suspension of 2 weeks in line with previous decisions where Players/Coaches have made critical comments in a public forum.
"Whilst the Panel accept that the tweet was written in a moment of frustration and was deleted quickly by the Player, it had already been picked up on social media and was then discussed publicly.
"Taking into account the proportionality of the total sanction, this period of 2 weeks is to run concurrent to the 6 week sanction for the punching of an opponent.
"The Panel make it clear that tweets and comments such as this undermine the Game, the core value of respect and the disciplinary process. Whilst players and clubs are entitled to disagree with the outcome of disciplinary hearings, there are proper processes to be followed and twitter, or social media more generally, are not the appropriate forums for such frustration to be vented.
"The Player is free to play again on the 20 November 2018."