Connacht's Abraham Papali’i has been banned for five weeks following his red card in last week's Guinness PRO14 game against Zebre.
Papali’i was dismissed for a clash of heads with Tommaso Boni by referee Dan Jones under Law 9.13: 'A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously. Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders.'
It was the second red card the New Zealander received this season having been sent off in his provincial debut against Munster. Papali’i faced a disciplinary panel on Thursday consisting of Charles Cuthbert (Chair), Nigel Williams and Declan Goodwin (all Wales). Connacht manager Tim Allnutt and solicitor Barry Gavin represented Papali’i via video conference.
The panel concluded the incident warranted a red card and was deemed a mid-range offence, which carries a six-week suspension. The player’s co-operation throughout the process and remorse shown warranted a one-week reduction of the suspension, bringing his ban to five weeks - he will be able to return to play from midnight on Monday, December 28 2020.
Earlier this week Connacht coach Andy Friend fully backed his player. “Hopefully common sense prevails on Thursday and it’s thrown out,” Friend said. Friend admitted that the former Rugby League player has been working on his tackle technique since his arrival. Friend said: “We’re working really hard with him to drop that body height. He’s a big man anyway and those things take a while, but with this one, you could see he was just trying to come forward and grab him. The Zebre player is allowed to do what he chooses to, and step and all the rest of it, but he certainly wasn’t trying to hit him with his head.”