Rugby World Cup 2011
Ghiraldini hit with 15-week ban
ESPNscrum Staff
October 4, 2011
Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini takes a breather during the Pool C match against the USA at Trafalgar Park, Nelson, New Zealand, September 27, 2011
Italy's Leonardo Ghiraldini will face a disciplinary hearing after being cited for an alleged eye gouge on Ireland's Cian Healy © Getty Images

Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini has been suspended for 15 weeks after pleading guilty to an eye-gouge on Ireland's Cian Healy during Sunday's Rugby World Cup Pool C clash in Dunedin.

Ghiraldini's offence, which occurred at the base of a ruck during the first half of the game at the Otago Stadium, went unseen by referee Jonathan Kaplan or any of the South African's assistants but it was captured by television cameras.

Consequently, the Azzurri forward was cited after the game and summoned to appear before a disciplinary panel in Auckland on Tuesday. Ghiraldini acknowledged during the hearing that he had made contact with the eye/eye area of the Irish prop but insisted that his actions had not been deliberate.

However, the Independent Judicial Officer, Bruce Squire QC, decided otherwise and, according to an International Rugby Board (IRB) press release, categorised the Italian's offence as "top end offending, which has an entry point of 24 weeks suspension". The Judicial Officer also felt that the suspension should be increased in order to act as a deterrent to others, noting that increased penalties had not been reflected in any significant reduction in offending of this kind".

However, a 15-week ban was eventually decided upon after the player's previously unblemished disciplinary record and a "range of other mitigating factors" were taken into account. As a result, Ghiraldini is suspended up to and including January 17 of next year, though he does have 48 hours in which to appeal his sentence.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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