Waratahs Latu and Skelton suspended

NSW Waratahs forwards Tolu Latu and Will Skelton have been suspended for four and two weeks respectively after each were found guilty of an illegal lifting tackle.

Hooker Latu and lock Skelton were both cited for their involvement in a lifting tackle on Crusaders and All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock in the 17th minute of last Saturday’s Super Rugby game at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.

Latu lifted Whitelock’s legs while Skelton had his upper body and threw him to the ground.

Both men will miss the Australian conference leading Waratahs matches in South Africa against the Lions in Johannesburg this weekend and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein the following weekend.

Latu will also miss the final round home match against Queensland and the first week of the finals, if NSW play that week.

A statement from the Waratahs said their officials and legal representatives at the hearing were surprised and disappointed with the outcomes.

Coach Michael Cheika was reportedly emotional about the decisions and Waratahs Rugby CEO Greg Harris said his organisation intended appealing the verdict.

“Without going into lengthy detail on the hearing the fact that our legal representatives have recommended that we appeal these decisions speaks for itself,” Harris said in the statement.

“We would not be intending to pursue this course of action unless we were of the opinion that both players were entitled to have their situations reconsidered by the Appeal Committee.

“Our intentions are to appeal the decision however we will wait until we receive the written report from SANZAR before doing so.”

He said Skelton would travel with the team to South Africa on Tuesday and was optimistic that following the appeal he would be cleared to play.

If Latu’s suspension stands, third-choice hooker Hugh Roach, who has played just five games for the Waratahs will start against the Lions.

First-choice hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is currently recovering from his second bout of concussion this season and was ruled out of the South Africa trip by Cheika last week

South African based judicial hearing chairman Robert Stelzner SC determined both Skelton and Latu had a lower end entry point for breaching of 10.4 (j) lifting tackle, which stipulates a four-week suspension.

He said mitigating circumstances including clean disciplinary records, youthfulness and character references resulted in two weeks being taken off both suspensions, but he added two more weeks to Latu’s punishment as a deterrent

“For this type of offending, as it is an action that has sought to be eliminated from the game,” Stelzner said in a SANZAR statement

“The players playing schedule is such that there is a significant chance of the Waratahs being involved in the Super Rugby qualifier and/or semi-finals.

“A four-week suspension will in all probability result in his missing the next four matches of the competition. This is a meaningful sanction.

He said Latu played a more dominant role in the tackle than Skelton, being more active in the lifting and twisting of Whitelock and contributed more significantly to the end result.

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