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EPCR stamping saga ends with a suspension

DISCIPLINARY UPDATE: Bristol Bears lock Josh Caulfield was handed a four-week suspension after European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) appealed the disciplinary hearing decision to overturn his red card.

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Caulfield was sent off by the referee, Pierre Brousset (France), in the 13th minute of his team’s Champions Cup Round Four match against Connacht for stamping on Finlay Bealham’s head, in contravention of Law 9.12.

However, a disciplinary committee comprising Paul Thomas (Wales), Chair, Marcello D’Orey (Portugal) and Stefan Terblanche (South Africa) determined that “Caulfield had committed an act of foul play, but it found that the offence did not warrant a red card, and the red card decision was therefore overturned”.

That development drew a lot of criticism and former Test referee Nigel Owens also shared his opinion on the matter.

“How can they say this is foul play but not a red card,” Owens said on X at the time.

However, Caulfield will now face a stint on the sidelines following two hearings this week – an appeal and then a brand new disciplinary hearing.

“An independent Appeal Committee comprising James Dingemans (England), Chair, Jean-Noël Couraud (France) and Donal Courtney (Ireland) was convened on Tuesday, January 30 to consider the appeal by EPCR,” said a statement.

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“The Appeal Committee considered the appeal and heard submissions from the player’s legal representative, Sam Jones, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan, and concluded that the original decision should be set aside and therefore upheld the appeal.

“They determined that the case should be reheard afresh by a new disciplinary committee at the earliest possible convenience.

“The new hearing took place on Wednesday, January 31 with Katherine Mackie (Scotland), Chair, Mirian Tavzarashvili (Georgia), and Valeriu Toma (Romania) appointed as the disciplinary committee.

“The committee heard evidence from the player and also heard submissions from the player’s legal representative, Sam Jones, Bristol Bears Director of Rugby Pat Lam and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.

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“The committee determined that Caulfield had committed an act of foul play in contravention of Law 9.12 and that a red card was warranted.

“The committe determined that the offending was at the mid-range entry point of World Rugby’s sanctions and six weeks was selected as the appropriate entry point.

“Due to the players’ good disciplinary record, his on-field apology to Finlay Bealham and excellent conduct at the hearing, the committee decided to reduce the sanction by two weeks before imposing a four-week suspension.

“The date when Caulfield can return to play will be determined once the committee has received full details of his future playing schedule.

“Both the player and EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.”

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