Skelton, Latu suspended for foul play

Date published: May 25 2015

Waratahs lock Will Skelton and hooker Tolu Latu were suspended for two weeks and four weeks respectively for a tip tackle on Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock.

Latu received a yellow card for the offence which occurred in the 17th minute of the Super Rugby match at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.

The SANZAR Judicial Hearing was held by Robert Stelzner SC. Mike Mika was the former professional player who attended as a Judicial Technical Adviser.

Nature of Offence: Law 10.4 (j) Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.

In his finding on Skelton's offence, Stelzner ruled the following:

"As the Judicial Officer, I considered all evidence before me including the video footage, additional video provided by the Waratahs, Citing Commissioner's report, medical information for the Crusaders' player, Sam Whitelock, who was involved in the incident and the submissions made for the player by his legal representatives, Anthony Black SC and Bruce Hodgkinson.

"After taking all relevant facts into consideration, I found the incident to have a lower end entry point for breaching of 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle which stipulates a four-week suspension.

"Mitigating factors which were taken into account included the player’s clean record, his relative youthfulness and the good character references supplied on his behalf. This resulted in the sanction being reduced by two weeks.

"Two offending players, Skelton and Silatolu Latu, were involved in the incident. Latu played a more active role in the lifting and twisting of their opponent, Sam Whitelock, contributing more significantly to the end result than Skelton. Skelton nevertheless also lifted and twisted Whitelock in the tackle, which is why he too was found to have breached the applicable Law.

"Given the lesser extent of his involvement however, the sanction in the case of Skelton did not in my view warrant an increase from the entry level sanction to serve as a deterrent.

"He was unaware of the actions of his fellow player, Silatolu Latu, and although he dropped his opponent after he had lifted and turned him, it appeared that Latu was the player who had continued with the tip tackle causing their opponent to land in the manner in which he ultimately did.

"The player was found to have contravened Law 10.4 (j) and is suspended up to and including Saturday 6 June 2015."

Because Stelzner viewed Latu's role in the offence to be more serious he ruled that:

"Mitigating factors included the fact that the player admitted his contravention of the law, his youthfulness and clean disciplinary record and the character references supplied on his behalf.

“This resulted in the aforesaid period of four weeks being reduced by two weeks. A deterrent of two weeks was however added for this type of offending as it is an action that has sought to be eliminated from the game.  

“Latu played a more dominant role in the tackle when compared to the actions of his teammate, Will Skelton, who received a suspension of two weeks.

"The player’s playing schedule is such that there is a significant chance of the Waratahs being involved in the Super Rugby Qualifier and/or Semi-Finals. A four-week suspension will in all probability result in his missing the next four matches of the competition. This is a meaningful sanction.

"The player is accordingly found to have contravened Law 10.4 (j) and is suspended up to and including Saturday 20 June 2015."