A statement from panel chair Richard Whittam stated that Watson was involved in clear foul play but was also being fouled himself leading to his actions.
“The panel accepted this was an act of frustration by the player in trying to release his leg from being held by Northampton Saints 12. Contact was clearly made with the face of the Northampton player but the action was petulant rather than with any intent to cause injury. In this instance, no injury was suffered and the Northampton player continued in the match after returning from the yellow card,” he said.
He went on to say that the normal punishment for such an offence would be a minimum of eight weeks, however, due to Watson’s clean record the Saracens man would only receive a four-week ban.
“The sanction table mandates a mid-range entry point where there is contact with the head. In this case, that entry point is eight weeks. The panel found no reason to go above that. The player accepted the charge, has no previous record and expressed remorse for his actions. In the circumstances, the panel felt able to give the player the maximum mitigation of 50 per cent. The panel note that while the yellow card awarded to Northampton Saints 12 was not brought before them for consideration, it is disappointing to see actions of this nature in the professional game,” he said.
The result of the hearing means that Watson will be unavailable for selection for the current holders until November 8th.
Meanwhile Polota-Nau, who was also red-carded during the weekend’s cup fixtures for a dangerous tackle on Bath’s William Chudley was seen to today with Whittam again explaining that the players remorse and record would see his suspension reduced.
“The player accepted that he had committed an act of foul play in tackling a player high, making contact to the top of his chest/bottom of the neck. In accepting the charge, the player acknowledged that the mandatory mid-range entry point would apply. The player was entitled to mitigation for his early acceptance of the charge, his clean record over an impressive rugby career, his genuine remorse for the injury caused and his off-field contributions to the local community. The panel allowed the full 50 per cent reduction resulting in a sanction of three weeks,” he said.
His ban will see him out of action until October 29th in what is a big blow for Leicester.
Saracens open their campaign by hosting Northampton on Saturday October 19th while Leicester begin on the same day with a trip to Worcester but both will be without their respective players for the beginning of the season.
Cipriani has a new club
Danny Cipriani will join Bath Rugby in May on an extended one-year contract, to include the completion of the 2020/21 season.
The 16-cap England international will join the Blue, Black and White at the beginning of May, following a rigorous recruitment process to strengthen the club’s options at fly-half, with Rhys Priestland departing to Cardiff Blues at the end of this season.
The 33-year-old playmaker is credited for his unique vision as well as his natural creativity and impressive attacking skillset, contributing to a semi-final place for Gloucester in 2018/19 and the Rugby Players’ Association Players’ Player of the Year 2019.
Highly attack minded, Cipriani’s ability to predict the passage of play, create space and control the game is a key component of the fly-half’s unique attributes.
His expertise in game understanding, combined with an exciting commitment to seizing opportunities, has often resulted in match-winning moments across his 18-year career in the sport.
On joining the Blue, Black and White, Cipriani said: “I’ve been really focused over the past three months on improving my running efficiency and kicking, while looking for a club that matches my ambition. After speaking with Stuart and Neal, it was clear that Bath offered that opportunity.
“We talked about what I could bring to the club and what Bath were looking for in a fly-half; someone who could be part of an attacking mindset, who could help unlock that aspect of the game and inject additional pace and vision – complementing the quality in the team.
“The club has a clear ambition and drive that aligns with my own; they want to achieve something special as a team, they want to win. That was a very appealing vision for me.”
Cipriani will join Tian Schoeman as an experienced fly-half who will support Bath’s developing players – in particular Orlando Bailey – to evolve their game.
Cipriani and Schoeman give Hooper experienced options at fly-half, providing a significant opportunity for Bailey to further accelerate his development with their stewardship, following his recent appearances in the first team.
Director of Rugby Stuart Hooper said: “Danny’s abilities are evident; his game understanding and management are exceptional as is his skillset in the backline. He has a real eye for detail around the attacking shape, I’m confident that he will bring an exciting dimension to our game.
“We have made no secret of our recruitment in this key position. Our process, as with all recruitment and contracting decisions, has been thorough and diligent and we are now incredibly excited to be able to announce the recruitment of Danny.
“I have no doubt that Danny will become a valued member of our playing group and become an ambassador to the younger players coming through the pathway just as Rhys has so well over the seasons.”
Tigers welcome back Burns
Leicester Tigers will welcome Freddie Burns back to the club ahead of the 2021/22 season.
The 30-year-old, currently playing for Toyota Jido Shokki in Japan, returns to Leicester for a second stint at the club where he made 75 appearances between 2014-17.
He joined Leicester in 2014 and scored 603 points for Tigers in three seasons, before moving to Bath Rugby ahead of the 2017/18 campaign and then to Japan for the 2020/21 season.
Speaking about the addition of Burns from next season, Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick said: “We are looking forward to welcoming Freddie back to the club from next season.
“He is an experienced Premiership player who has played international rugby and will be a valuable addition to our squad.
“I have been impressed with the way Freddie has spoken about wanting to be a part of what we are building at Tigers and his determination to be a leader in our squad.”
Burns added: “I can’t wait to be back in Leicester and part of the club again.
“I can see the changes in the team and clear identity of the squad with Steve and want to be a part of that.
“I am coming back to compete and want to be playing in the Premiership once again.
“Tigers fans are so passionate and I always had such a good connection with them, they are definitely a reason why I want to come back to the club.”
Gallagher Premiership scrap relegation
- At the end of season 2020/21 there will be no relegation from the Premiership into the Championship, and no relegation from the Championship into National One.
- Provided the winner of the 2020/21 Greene King IPA Championship is eligible for promotion under the current Minimum Standards Criteria, the 2021/22 season to consist of 13 teams in the Gallagher Premiership and 11 in the Greene King IPA Championship.
- Holistic new minimum standards on and off the pitch for promotion to the Gallagher Premiership will be developed between now and the end of May 2021 with involvement and approval from Council which will be designed to promote sustainability in the professional game.
The RFU Council today cast a strong majority vote in favour of no relegation from the Gallagher Premiership or the Greene King IPA Championship for the 2020/21 season.
Council members considered the impact Covid-19 has had on all areas of the game, including the earlier decision to suspend promotion and relegation in the community game and the Gallagher Premiership cancelling a significant number of matches in the 2020/21 season. These cancellations have resulted in a material impact on league positions which could mean relegation based on cancellation not on field merit.
Over the next four months the RFU, Premiership Rugby and Championship representatives will work on recommendations for changes to the season structures for 2021/22 and beyond for both the Premiership and Championship.
It is hoped that proposals will include a different approach to promotion and relegation from the Gallagher Premiership. The aim will be to retain the ambition of clubs in the Greene King IPA Championship and below and to continue to allow a route to promotion to the Gallagher Premiership. New minimum standard criteria, investment in facilities and club funding will be discussed. The domestic calendar will be reviewed, which will also allow additional preparation time for the England senior men’s team ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023. Player welfare will be central to the proposals and the RPA will be consulted on the development of season structures. It is likely that any season structures may also include a further moratorium on promotion and relegation for three or four seasons, after which the structure will be subject to further review. Those proposals would be subject to a vote of the RFU Council before the end of the 2020/21 season.
Speaking about the RFU Council vote, RFU President, HH Jeff Blackett said; “The RFU Council has taken time to understand and discuss all the factors regarding no relegation for this season so that we act in the best interests of all levels of the game. We want to ensure a healthy elite game to support successful winning England teams that generate income to stimulate and preserve the game across all levels. The Council will continue to be closely engaged with the proposals from the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Championship to ensure we maintain the integrity of the future league structures for England Rugby.”