Hooper won’t miss Rugby Championship decider

Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has been suspended for one week after
he was found guilty of punching Nicolas Sanchez in Australia’s victory over
Argentina.

While Hooper will miss one week of rugby he will not miss next week’s Rugby
Championship match against New Zealand and will be available for the Wallabies
after missing this weekend’s Sydney Club competition match.

The incident occured during Dean Mumm’s second half try in the 59th minute
and Sanchez immediately dropped to the floor after being punched by Hooper.

A SANZAR Judicial Hearing has found Hooper guilty of contravening Law 10.4
(a) Punching or striking after he was cited for alleged foul play.

The incident occurred in the 59th minute of the match between Argentina and
Australia at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza on 25 July 2015.

The SANZAR Judicial Hearing was heard by Nigel Hampton QC via video conference
and in his ruling he found that Hooper had acted to stop him from being held
by Sanchez.

“As the Judicial Officer, I considered all the evidence before me including
a number of videos which showed additional angles of the incident, medical reports
for the Argentina flyhalf, Nicolas Sanchez, the citing commissioner’s report
for the incident and submissions made for the player by his legal representative,
Anthony Black SC, ” said Hampton in his ruling.

“It was submitted on Hooper’s behalf that the action he performed
was part of an attempt to stop himself being held by Argentina player, Nicolas
Sanchez. The action was described as a ‘push with an open hand’ and not a punch.
It was submitted that this action was similar to a fend by a ball carrier attempting
to stop himself from being tackled. It was also submitted that the offence could
not be made out as a strike because the law specifically lists the offences
as the use of a fist, arm or elbow but not an open hand.

“I found that this submission could not be accepted. Allowing open hand
striking motions such as this of force to any part of an opposing player’s body
could not be deemed an act within the laws of the game and not able to be sanctioned.
Striking with an open hand could fall within the definitions of a breach of
Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking.

“The action can not be compared to a fend by a ball carrier. A fend is
an accepted arm/hand movement made by a ball carrier on a would-be tackler.
In this incident, the ball was not in play.

“The video supports Hooper’s account of events that he was grabbed intentionally
by Sanchez who maintained contact as he moved behind Hooper, causing him to
become unbalanced, rotate around and effectively run backwards. This action
was done to prevent Hooper from supporting a teammate who had the ball and was
running towards the goal line. If Hooper was not held in this way, he could
have supported his teammate in a number of ways so that his team could potentially
score.

“Hooper tried to extricate himself from the hold when he wasn’t released
by Sanchez. The actions of Sanchez while deliberate, illegal and an act of considerable
provocation, do not allow for retaliation in an illegal way including striking
the opponent. Hooper’s account and the video support the notion that he did
not punch the opponent in the face. However, it matters not where a strike lands
on an opponent if there was indeed a strike.

“It was found that Hooper, in circumstances of considerable frustration
and in order to try and rid himself of his opponent, drew back his free right
arm and, voluntarily using additional momentum over and above that given to
him by the actions of his opponent, struck out at the opponent’s head
and neck area with his open hand, making contact with the back of the opponent’s

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