Italian captain banned for eight weeks

Italy rugby captain Sergio Parisse has been suspended for eight weeks for eye gouging during his team’s one-off test against New Zealand at Christchurch on Saturday.

Parisse, a 65-test veteran who had never previously received a red or yellow card in a test match, was found guilty of making contact with the eyes or eye area of All Blacks lock Isaac Ross in the 58th minute of the match, won 27-6 by New Zealand.

International Rugby Board judicial officer Paul Tully, who convened a hearing for Parisse at Christchurch on Sunday, found the Italian No. 8 guilty after viewing video evidence and hearing reports from the match referee and linesmen.

Tully said Parisse’s action “fell within the lower range” (of seriousness) which carried a possible penalty of 12 weeks’ suspension.

“However, while the action was found to be reckless it was not deemed intentional,” Tully said.

He said mitigating factors included the fact that the contact was brief and occurred in the open. There was no injury to Ross’s eye and the initial contact by Parisse was with Ross’s cheek slipping into the eye, Tully said.

He said after taking all matters into account, including Parisse’s previously excellent record, a suspension of eight weeks was deemed adequate.

Tully said since Parisse is now in his offseason, the suspension will start Aug. 2, which the start of the Italian club season, and conclude at midnight on Sept. 26.

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