The horrific issue of eye gouging has again raised its ugly head following Mark Cueto’s alleged attempt on Northampton’s Christian Day. But so too has the inconsistent bans being imposed.
It appears that the there is a disparity between the sanctions handed out against professional clubs is far less than those within the community. Cueto has been given a 9-week ban, enabling him to be selected for the World Cup in September. Originally the sanction was 18 weeks but this was reduced for “compelling mitigation” to 9 weeks. No one will say just what the “compelling mitigation” is.
This is just the latest player to be banned. Stade Francais scrum-half Julien Dupuy was banned for 24-week for eye-gouging Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris. In the same match David Attoub Stade Francais prop, was also cited and banned for 70 weeks for also eye-gouging Stephen Ferris (which makes you wonder what the poor boy had done)!
Schalk Burger however only received 8 weeks following his attempt during the last Lions tour – although fans were outraged he only got a yellow card in the match (which still remains an appalling decision from Kiwi AR Bryce Lawrence).
Yet Maidstone Rugby Club have been in the press for the eye gouging incident that left an opponent blind in one eye – but disappointingly the club refused to identify the culprit and deservedly were given a 50 point deduction and a fine, albeit a paltry £2000. At the other extreme is Whitehaven flanker Callum Jennings who was banned for five years following a freak accident where he blinded an opponent during a hand-off as he ran at full pace.
There needs to be greater consistency in the punishment that is meted out. The IRB and Constituent Bodies should review their sanctions and increase the minimum for eye gouging. There is no reason for any player to make contact with an opponents eyes.
Its about time the RFU took off their blindfolds they use for premiership player panels and impose consistent sanctions. Therefore ban them – don’t just slap their wrists and enable them to play in a World Cup. Where is the justice in that.