Rugby World Cup
Bans for Ford and Gray branded a 'sick joke' by Kenny Logan
ESPN Staff
October 14, 2015
Can Scotland upset the odds?

The three-week bans handed to Ross Ford and Jonny Gray ahead of Scotland's Rugby World Cup quarterfinal with Australia have been branded a "sick joke", unfair and inconsistent by former Scotland internationals Kenny Logan and Peter Wright.

Ford and Gray were banned for a clearout of Jack Lam at a ruck in the second half of the Pool B victory over Samoa that secured Scotland's place in the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time since 2007.

The pair were cited by Australian citing commissioner Scott Nowland over the incident and late on Tuesday found guilty of a dangerous tackle, in line with World Rugby's focus on reducing the risk of head and neck injuries.

The initial five-week ban was reduced to three on the grounds of mitigating circumstances, but Scottish Rugby expressed their disappointment at the decision and reserved their 48-hour right to appeal after reviewing the full judgement.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Logan contrasted the bans for hooker Ford and lock Gray to the one-week suspension handed to Ireland flanker Sean O'Brien for punching a French opponent and the yellow card shown to David Pocock for a knee in the back of Wales hooker Scott Baldwin.

Ross Ford
Ross Ford© David Rogers/Getty Images

"This is a sick joke. Pocock clearly knees Baldwin in the back but gets off with a slap on the wrist, and Ireland's Sean O'Brien gets a week ban after a premeditated punch on Pascal Pape in full sight of the referee," said Logan, who played 70 Tests on the wing for Scotland.

"Two Scottish players with a perfect disciplinary record get a three-week ban for clearing out a player with no malicious intent at a ruck just because he fell awkwardly. There is no level playing field. This is a shameful decision."

Wright, who serves on Scottish Rugby's disciplinary panel, said Ford and Gray's bans were a "massive blow" to Scotland's chances against Australia, but had no issue with the punishment handed to the duo.

"The result didn't surprise me," he told Press Association Sport. "World Rugby want the unions to stamp down on those kind of challenges where players' legs are above the horizontal and the head and neck end up making contact with the ground.

"So when I saw the tackle involving the Scottish lads I thought straight away that it could end up in a ban."

Cotter impressed with Scottish state of mind

But the former Scotland and Lions prop questions the consistency of such citations, pointing to a similar tackle by JP Pietersen against Scotland that went unpunished.

"The citing officer did his job because all he has seen is a tackle that falls under the guidelines he's supposed to watch out for and then reported it. But what concerns me is the inconsistency of the other cases.

"JP Pietersen was guilty of a tip tackle on Tim Swinson when Scotland played South Africa and he got nothing. Nigel Owens was the ref that day and was going on about how it wasn't malicious. But I'm sorry. Malicious intent is a matter of the mind, so how he can possibly read Pietersen's mind I don't know.

"The Ford-Gray case is not the worst one in the world and when compared to the O'Brien case, where he has thrown a deliberate punch, then it does look a bit unfair on the Scottish boys. Unfortunately common sense does not seem to come into it. There just doesn't seem to be that consistency across the board."

Australia coach Michael Cheika said he had not seen the incident but had some sympathy for the Scottish duo.

"I feel for them," Cheika told reporters. "It's the World Cup, you have worked hard for it and when you get to possibly three finals to play, you miss out.

"The same happened to Michael Hooper last week. His grandparents came over to watch him play last weekend and he was suspended. I know it's a little thing but it's important. You feel for the players."

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