Johnny Sexton was not happy after Leinster lost the European Champions Cup Final to La Rochelle. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
- Ireland captain Johnny Sexton received a relatively light ban for showing his dissent at the match officials.
- Sexton faced a disciplinary hearing after exchanging words with SA referee Jacco Bieber after the Champions Cup final.
- A three match ban will allow Sexton to play for free in the Rugby World Cup.
Johnny Sexton will be free to captain Ireland at the Rugby World Cup after receiving a three-match ban for misconduct, European rugby chiefs announced on Sunday.
But the 38-year-old Flyhalf will miss next month’s preliminary matches against Italy, England and Samoa.
Sexton faced a disciplinary hearing over “misconduct complaints” after exchanging words with South African referee Jacco Pepper after his Leinster club lost to La Rochelle in the European Champions Cup Final in Dublin on 20 May, a match in which the injured Sexton did not play.
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The charge could involve a lengthy ban, but a statement from European Professional Club Rugby on behalf of an independent disciplinary panel said: “Having regard to the full circumstances of the misconduct and mitigation detailed in the written reasons, the Disciplinary Committee concluded that the appropriate and proportionate punishment was an immediate suspension of three matches.” .
“He (Sexton) has been suspended with immediate effect and cannot play in the following Ireland matches: 1. August 5, Italy; 2. August 19, England; 3. August 26, Samoa.”
Leading contenders Ireland open their World Cup campaign against Romania in Bordeaux on September 9.
The committee, which opened the hearing on Thursday, has awarded Ireland’s Leinster County a suspended £7,500 fine for failing to exercise reasonable control over its player.
Leinster’s agonizing 27-26 loss to La Rochelle was their second successive narrow defeat by the French side in a European rugby match.
The panel found that Sexton, who had admitted misconduct, had engaged in “confrontational and aggressive behavior towards match officials and disrespect for match officials”.
They added that he pointed his finger at the officials and they shouted something to the effect: “It’s a disgrace that you guys can’t make big decisions properly,” with the committee also saying that these words were accompanied by insults, “probably and word”.
A three-man panel chaired by chief solicitor Christopher Quinlan found that Sexton’s conduct was “clearly unsportsmanlike and discredited the sport of rugby union”.
Sexton is free to play again on August 27th.
The committee ruled that if Leinster commits another act of misconduct before the end of the 2023/24 EPCR season, the club must pay the full £7,500 fine.
Sexton, Leinster and EPCR have the right to appeal decisions, which must be done by 17:00 (South African time) on Wednesday.
One of the leading rugby union players of his generation, Sexton said he will retire after this year’s World Cup in France.