Veteran Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton will be free to skipper his country at the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France after he received a three-match suspension for misconduct.
The 38-year-old will miss Ireland’s warm-up games against Italy, England and Samoa after he was found guilty of a European Professional Club Rugby misconduct charge made against him following Leinster’s Champions Cup final loss to La Rochelle at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on May 20.
Heated exchange with match officials
Sexton, who was not playing in the game, went on to the pitch after the match – which Leinster lost 27-26 – and became involved in what looked like a heated exchange with South African referee Jaco Peyper and other match officials.
The independent disciplinary commission, which met last week, issued a statement which said: “With the consent of the parties, the independent disciplinary committee (comprising Christopher Quinlan KC, chair, (World Rugby independent judicial panel chair), Adam Casselden SC (former chair SANZAAR judicial committee) and Marcello D’Orey (former international rugby player) announced its decision and full written reasons today in respect of the misconduct case brought against Johnny Sexton and Leinster Rugby.
“Johnny Sexton admitted misconduct. The disciplinary committee found his behaviour confrontational and aggressive towards and disrespectful of the match officials.
“It included his pointing his finger at them and shouting at them something to this effect: ‘It’s a disgrace you guys can’t get the big decisions right,’ probably accompanied by expletives, ‘most likely the f-word’.
“His conduct was obviously unsportsmanlike and brought the sport of rugby union into disrepute.”
Sexton has been banned with immediate effect and will sit out Ireland’s matches against Italy on August 5, England on August 19 and Samoa on August 26.
However, he will be available for selection when Ireland kick off their World Cup campaign against Romania in Bordeaux on September 9.
The Irish province have also been handed a suspended £7,500 fine for failing to exercise reasonable control over their player, and both, as well as EPCR, have until 4pm on Wednesday to appeal against the independent disciplinary committee decision.
The statement added: “The disciplinary committee upheld the misconduct complaint against Leinster Rugby.
“Having regard to the limited extent to which it was at fault and relevant mitigation, the disciplinary committee concluded that the appropriate penalty was a fine in the sum of £7,500, suspended until the end of the 2023/24 EPCR season.
Leinster to pay fine if found guilty of misconduct again
“If Leinster commits another act of misconduct before the end of the 2023/24 EPCR season it must pay that sum in full.”
Sexton, who led Ireland, ranked number one in the world, to a Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year, has indicated his intention to retire after the World Cup.