Waratahs stunned at Latu's suspension but accept ban

The Waratahs are privately stunned at the hefty six-week suspension dished out to Tolu Latu, particularly as one of their players was injured with a similar “crime” last year and no charges were laid.

NSW grudgingly accepted a six-match suspension for Latu on Tuesday after he plead guilty to a dangerous charge into a ruck or maul, under law 9.20, against the Sunwolves.

Ed Quirk suffered a knee injury in a 79th minute incident, and though appearing to have a case to argue Latu was within his rights to tackle the ball carrier, the Waratahs plead guilty and anticipated a mid-range, 3-4 week penalty.

Spear tackles usually attract four week bans, and Bulls forward Pierre Schoeman was suspended for six weeks last year for biting Richard Hardwick.

But, in a media release, the SANZAAR judiciary said they'd regarded Latu’s offence at the top end (10-plus weeks) "due to the vulnerability of the victim, the gravity of the offence and the extent of the injury caused to the victim.”

Latu’s ban was subsequently reduced to six weeks and though they had a right of appeal, the Waratahs accepted the ban.

"Naturally we are disappointed to lose him from the squad this early in the season,” coach Daryl Gibson said in a statement.

“While I was somewhat surprised at the duration of the suspension, it puts all players and teams on notice about what SANZAAR consider to be dangerous play and the hard line stance they are taking.

“I am backing our team to step up and fill the gap Tolu will leave."  

The disquiet at Daceyville stemmed not only from the length of the suspension but from there was no action taken at all when NSW lock Ned Hanigan suffered a knee injury in a similar scenario in Christchurch last year.

In a ruck as a defender, Hanigan was slammed from the side at a ruck by Crusaders lock Scott Barrett and suffered a medial ligament tear that kept him out for a month.

The Waratahs reportedly asked SANZAAR to examine the incident at the time but the citing commissioner elected to not charge Barrett.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, SANZAAR said its committee had looked at all camera angles as well as "additional evidence" when considering its decision.

Latu's initial suspension of 10 weeks was reduced to six given his remorse and the fact that his last Super Rugby suspension was in 2016.

"Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including from the player and submissions from his legal representative, Hugh Sommerville, the Foul Play Review Committee upheld the citing under Law 9.20a," a SANZAAR statement read.

"With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a top-end entry point of 10 weeks due to the vulnerability of the victim, the gravity of the offence and the extent of the injury caused to the victim. 

"However, taking into account mitigating factors including Player's expressed remorse, the fact his most recent Judicial offence was 3 years ago and the player's guilty plea at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to 6 weeks."

"The player is therefore suspended for 6 weeks, up to and including Saturday 20 April 2019.”

Latu will not be available to play for the Waratahs until their April 27 clash against the Sharks at Western Sydney Stadium.

The next hookers in line at the Waratahs are JP Sauni and Andrew Tuala and the pair will have a chance to push their selection credentials in an Emerging Waratahs game against a touring Auckland side this Friday.