SANZAR has appealed the severity of a one-game ban handed down to Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper, who is at risk of being rubbed out of Saturday week’s Rugby Championship decider against the All Blacks in Sydney.
The announcement by SANZAR late on Friday came a day after Hooper’s initial two-match ban was halved by the governing body at a judicial hearing because of his clean record and he was to serve the suspension by missing Manly’s Sydney club semi-final on Saturday against Randwick.
Hooper was found guilty of striking Argentine five-eighth Nicolas Sanchez in an off-the-ball incident during Australia’s 34-9 weekend win over Argentina in Mendoza.
Under SANZAR’s judicial rules, all formal hearings are scrutinised by an independent appeals review officer.
That officer, Graeme Mew, has decided to refer the matter to the SANZAR Appeals Committee to review the sanction handed down on Thursday evening by judicial officer Nigel Hampton.
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) released a statement, saying it was extremely disappointed with receiving the appeal notice from SANZAR.
“The ARU will vigorously defend the SANZAR appeal on the severity of the sanction handed to the player,” the statement said.
“Furthermore, the ARU intends to cross-appeal the Judicial Officer’s original finding that the player was guilty of committing an act of foul play.”
Hampton dismissed Hooper’s defence on Thursday night that he pushed Sanchez off with an open hand “similar to a fend by a ball carrier attempting to stop himself from being tackled”.
But he found Hooper’s striking offence to be “at the lower-end entry point which stipulates a two-week suspension”.
The Rugby Championship decider doubles as the first game of the two-Test Bledisloe Cup series.
Australia haven’t won the Bledisloe in 13 years and Hooper’s loss would be a devastating blow to coach Michael Cheika’s side.
The SANZAR appeals hearing will be conducted by video conference on Sunday at 5pm (AEST).