Ulster fullback Jared Payne is due to appear at an independent disciplinary hearing in Dublin on Wednesday following his sending off during the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens last Saturday.
Payne was shown a red card by French referee, Jerome Garces after just four minutes in the Euro tie at Ravenhill which Ulster eventually lost 17-15 in spite of a Herculean effort.
New Zealand-born Payne, who will qualify to play for Ireland in early September, will appear at the hearing to answer a charge of making an alleged dangerous charge in contravention of Law 10.4 (g) and Law 10.4 (i).
In respect of both laws the IRB recommended sanctions are two-three weeks at the low end and 10-52 weeks top end, with five to six in the mid range.
Since Saturday’s decision, the incident has obviously met with much debate and many still remain divided on how they saw the incident.
In Monday’s News Letter I have already stated that, applying the law irrespective of whether there was intent or not, Garces had really no option but to send Payne off on a red card.
The fact that Goode was carted off on a stretcher, while perhaps adding a bit more emotion to the incident, should also have had no bearing on Graces decision – and I do not believe it did.
It was also the case that Payne was not malicious in his actions. Yes, careless or reckless and the probable outcome was always going to end up with Goode coming off worse.
Had Payne collided with Goode in the air or Goode had not landed on his shoulder and head, then a different approach could be taken.
But Goode’s head hit the ground and in a situation like that, the decision is a red card – applying the law.
Yes, it was a harsh call but it was also the right call and it should also not matter whether it happened in four minutes or 78 minutes, even when in this instance it had the potential to spoil the contest (which it actually did not from a neutral’s point of view).
The law is there to protect players and in this instance those players who are in the air taking a high ball – something which Payne does regularly himself.
British Lion winger, Tommy Bowe, said himself after the match that the player in the air had to be protected – although he was not making a call on whether the red card was correct or not.
On Wednesday in Dublin, Simon Thomas, from Wales, has been appointed as the independent Judicial Officer for the hearing.
The panel will be able to see the incident for themselves, hear from the players and clubs and decide then what punishment to level Payne with.
Taking everything into consideration it is my opinion that Payne should not have any further punishment meted out.
The red card should be deemed punishment enough.
In terms of where the incident falls in level of severity of Law 10.4 (g) and (i), this particular one is low.
The probable outcome of the match when Ulster went down to 14 men was expected to be a Saracens victory and, although closer than one would have expected, the English Premiership side held on nervously at the end to a two point lead.
The fact that Ulster lost a big Heineken Cup game as a result of Payne’s dismissal should not be a consideration – even if both Payne and the club are hurting as a result of their exit from a game they quite possibly would have won.
No further punishment on Payne does not undermine the panel or the referee – and perhaps seems best in the interests of justice.
At the hearing, after all the evidence is presented, the panel will determine the entry point. In this instance it would be expected that a two week entry point would be appropriate.
The panel could then decrease the suspension taking into consideration certain mitigating circumstances such as a guilty plea, remorse, good previous disciplinary record – and in Payne’s situation the fact there was no malice intended.