Australia not to appeal Hodge ban over high tackle

Tokyo (AFP) –


Australia will not appeal against the three-match ban handed down on winger Reece Hodge for a high tackle in their opening World Cup match against Fiji.

Hodge became the first player cited and banned at the tournament in Japan following the incident in the Wallabies' 39-21 Pool D win over the Fijians last Saturday.

His hit on Peceli Yato left the Fijian flanker concussed and unable to return to the pitch.

There was a six-match entry point for the offence, but that was reduced by a disciplinary committee because of Hodge's previous clean record and good character.

Australia coach Michael Cheika has rallied behind Hodge, arguing that the tackle didn't even merit a penalty.

"We've deliberated with our Q.C. and several other legal minds in Australia," Cheika said Saturday.

"We've come to the conclusion that if they can't see that that tackle doesn't make the red card threshold, I'd be worried about going back there."

The coach has said that no one in the Wallabies team thought the hit met the red card threshold.

"We're not going to allow it to bother us," insisted Cheika after days of railing against World Rugby chiefs.

And even Wales coach Warren Gatland had words of sympathy for Hodge ahead of the two teams' crunch Pool D clash at Tokyo on Sunday.

"You saw the incident in real time and it didn't look like much and then you go to replays and slow it down and it looks much more sinister," Gatland said.

"He's been a bit unfortunate in terms of picking up that ban and hopefully he will still get more time in this World Cup."

The new high-tackle protocol has been a major talking point in the build-up to the World Cup, with many expecting a rush of red cards as referees crack down on dangerous hits.

Apart from Hodge, Samoan pair Rey Lee-lo and Motu Matu'u, and American John Quill -- who received a red card for his effort -- have also received three-match bans for dangerous tackles.

Refereeing has been in the spotlight at the World Cup after World Rugby took the unusual step of criticising the standard of officiating, following a number of controversies.