Is Adam Thomson's one-week suspension fair?
Only hours after one of its judicial officers handed down a one-week ban for trampling, the new boss of the IRB has announced All Black Adam Thomson's suspension will be reviewed.
Thomson's penalty, two weeks with one off for an unblemished record during his long test career, immediately attracted heavy criticism from Britain's leading rugby writers.
Thomson received the one-week suspension for trampling on the head of Scottish opposite Alasdair Strokosh at Murrayfield last Monday.
The IRB-appointed judicial officer's decision, as it stands, means Thomson will remain with the All Blacks for the remainder of their end-of-year tour and be spared the ignominy of being sent home after just one match.
However, IRB chief executive Brett Gosper, an Australian who recently succeeded Mike Miller in the top job, today revealed via social media microblogging site Twitter that the Thomson decision could be over-turned.
"The IRB will review this case as it is a match under our jurisdiction," tweeted Gosper. "If we decide to take action we will make it public."
That news caught an exhausted looking Thomson and All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster unawares as they arrived back at the team hotel from Heathrow today.
They were clearly unimpressed that after a thorough judicial process the decision was already the subject of a review, but Foster said that was the IRB's right.
Thomson said he was just glad the judicial hearing was over. He believed he had received a fair chance to state his case, which was essentially that the contact made with Strokosh's head was accidental.
"I never intended to make contact with another player in the game. I had a fair chance to lay that case today. I'm happy I had the chance to state my case and that it was listened to before he came to his conclusion," he said.
It had been a personal blow to be charged with stamping on an opponent's head.
"Massively mate. I'm disappointed with being suspended and I pride myself on the way I conduct myself on the field. To have such a long career and have a clean slate and then to get to this stage and have a blip is disappointing."
He was satisfied Strockosh did not hold an ill will toward him over the incident.
"I knew it wasn't intentional, Alasdair knew it wasn't intentional. We had a chat about it after the game and we had a chat about it at the after match.
"It's disappointing that it happened on a rugby field. Unfortunately there are accidents and he was very supportive of that and we got on well enough."
Those explanations will not be enough for the predictably irate British rugby writers and several have already voiced their displeasure on Twitter.
"One week ban for stomping on head. Ha! Makes game look a laughing stock," said The Telegraph's Mick Cleary.
"Will be fascinating to see if IRB do step in to rule on Thomson ban. V tricky precedent to set if they do. But wholly right also," added the Telegraph scribe.
Prominent All Black critic Stephen Jones of The Sunday Times also voiced his displeasure on Twitter.
"Latest from rugby's clean up campaign .. A measured, cynical head stamp is a one week ban. And there's one law for All Blacks. Disgrace."
If the decision by France's Jean-Noel Couraud stands, it will be a huge relief for the 30-year-old who was in danger of ending his test career in infamous fashion as he ponders a move offshore next year.
Thomson parted ways with his team-mates in Rome today and flew to Heathrow where he faced the IRB's judiciary.
The IRB's recommended range of punishment for the offence of "stamping or trampling" on an opponent's head was two to nine weeks, so Thomson has clearly discovered some mitigating circumstances.
He was represented by the New Zealand Rugby Union's Europe-based lawyer Owen Eastwood and accompanied by All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster.
Eastwood was the same legal man who represented hooker Keven Mealamu in Glasgow in 2010 when he managed to get a four-week suspension for head butting reduced to two.
The party were flying back to Rome today and unavailable for immediate comment.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will be relieved by the decision after earlier suggesting it would be regretful if Thomson received a long suspension.
"If he does go overseas and he does get a lengthy penalty that's a hell of a way to finish your All Black career when you've actually been a pretty tidy All Black," Hansen said.
Thomson has played 29 tests and is not considered dirty player, but appeared to have lost his composure when he put his sprigs on Strokosh's headgear in the 44th minute of the All Blacks 51-22 win in Edinburgh.
Though it was a reasonably gentle contact, Thomson was correctly sinbinned by French referee Jerome Garces on the advice of his touch judge.
Meanwhile, there was also relief today for utility back Ben Smith who has been cleared by the medical staff to be available for the final two matches of the tour against Wales and England.
Smith suffered a broken cheek bone during the win against Scotland and will miss Sunday's (NZT) test against Italy along with Tamati Ellison (toe ligaments).
Ellison remains an ongoing concern with coach Steve Hansen waiting until the end of the weekend to make a decision on whether he will call in a replacement.
- © Fairfax NZ News