New Zealand’s Ethan de Groot attended an independent Disciplinary Committee hearing for an offence contrary to Law 9.16 (“a player must not charge….an opponent without grasping the player”) as a result of a review by the Foul Play Review Official (FPRO) in New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup 2023 Pool A match against Namibia in Toulouse on 15 September.

The independent Disciplinary Committee was chaired by Brenda Heather-Latu (Samoa), joined by former players John Langford (Australia) and Jamie Corsi (Wales).

The player admitted that he had committed an act of foul play, but maintained that the red card threshold had not been met and therefore challenged the Foul Play Review Official’s decision that the tackle was “always illegal”.

Having considered all the available evidence, including the application of World Rugby’s Head Contact Process, the submissions by the player and his representative, and all available camera angles and technology, the independent Committee determined that:

i) an act of foul play had occurred;
ii) the player had the opportunity to put himself in a position to complete a legal tackle;
iii) the player was in a dynamic tackling position and, as admitted by the player, he was not sufficiently bent at the waist;
iv) that head contact had occurred and the degree of danger was high;
v) the FPRO’s decision that the tackle was “always illegal” was correct, because of the lack of an attempt to wrap, and therefore mitigation could not be applied in this incident to bring the sanction down from a red card.

On that basis and in considering the sanction, the independent Committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point for foul play resulting in head contact (six matches). Taking all considerations into account, including acceptance of an element of foul play and an excellent disciplinary record, the independent Committee determined a maximum mitigation of 50 per cent, resulting in a final sanction of three matches to be applied as follows:

  • New Zealand v Italy, 29 September
  • New Zealand v Uruguay 5 October
  • The player will be free to play in the Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter-final (if New Zealand qualify) subject to successful completion of the Coaching Intervention Programme*

*The player intends to apply to take part in the World Rugby Coaching Intervention Programme to substitute the final match of the sanction for a coaching intervention aimed at modifying specific techniques and technical issues that contributed to the foul play subject to successful completion. Further information can be found here.

The player has the right of appeal within 48 hours of the issuing of the full written decision, which will appear here once published.

Click here to watch the video that explains how rugby’s disciplinary process works. Visit World Rugby’s dedicated disciplinary process education and information page, which includes a video on how rugby’s disciplinary process works. 

A video explaining the World Rugby disciplinary process and how it is applied.