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Willemse learns his fate after Marseille red card

DISCIPLINARY UPDATE: France lock Paul Willemse will miss the Six Nations matches against Scotland and Italy after he was suspended for four weeks for a red card in the defeat to Ireland.

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The tournament’s disciplinary committee imposed the punishment after Willemse received a yellow and then red card for high tackles in France’s 17-38 defeat in the opening Six Nations match in Marseille.

The 31-year-old Willemse, who won his 32nd cap, was shown a yellow card in the ninth minute for catching Ireland prop Andrew Porter in the face.

That was followed by a shoulder-to-head tackle on Ireland loose forward Caelan Doris in the 32nd minute, which initially earned Willemse a second sin-binning.

Although two yellow cards constitute a sending-off anyway, the ‘bunker review’ upgraded the second yellow card to a full red.

Even so, the disciplinary panel opted for leniency.

“The committee recognised that while both actions were reckless, there was no evidence to suggest that the player had acted maliciously or intentionally in either case,” the Six Nations explained in a statement.

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“The committee also noted that the player had behaved admirably during the proceedings and had shown remorse for his actions.”

South African-born Willemse, who missed the last two World Cup tournaments with injury, is due to return on March 2.

If he serves his full term, Willemse will be suspended for France’s visit to Scotland on February 10 and the clash with Italy in Saint-Etienne on February 25.

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He would also miss three of his French club Montpellier’s Top 14 matches between February 17 and March 2.

But he can reduce his ban by a week by applying to take part in World Rugby’s coaching programme designed to improve tackling technique. That would mean he could be available for Montpellier’s trip to Oyonnax on March 2.

His suspension poses a major headache for France coach Fabien Galthie, who already has lost three other locks to injury in Thibaud Flament, Emmanuel Meafou and Romain Taofifenua.

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