Question: when is a three week ban not a three week ban? Answer: Eh, when it includes a week where the guilty party is not likely to be active. In which case it becomes, effectively, a four week ban. And for Cian Healy that means missing the France game as well as the trip to Scotland.
The Six Nations have managed to wade into some murky water on this one. The last sentence of the statement that accompanies the verdict reads:
The Committee allowed the maximum two weeks of mitigation, but, in imposing a suspension of three weeks, recognised that the player would not have played for his province this weekend is that the suspension will end at midnight on Sunday 10 March 2013.
In this country we’re familiar with meaningless bans. They used to be an issue in the GAA especially where end-of-season crimes carried a sentence served when the player was on holiday. Now they apply in competition time.
This Six Nations are trying to avoid a similar situation, where some of the sentence is redundant because the player would be inactive. So they give Healy three weeks, one of which wouldn’t mean a whole lot to him because it’s the Pro 12 game against Treviso on Saturday, and then declare that in fact he won’t be available to play for four weeks. I asked if any other players were lumbered with extras in this way but so far no answer is forthcoming.
You’re wondering why they don’t simply communicate in plain English that the player will be unavailable for four weeks, instead of three with a bit extra thrown in? Or that the ban relates only to Test matches, and to pick a number of games that fits the crime?
In this case what they’re doing is declaring the offence, where he was bang to rights, started off at mid range (five weeks) and was mitigated down to a three week sentence, which was expected. But rather than leave it at that, they stretch out the time off so that each week is meaningful.
It’s being reported that the start date is this coming weekend. It’s not. The start date is two days ago when the citing was made. But because the Six Nations have managed to wrap something simple in a package that’s hard to unravel, people will wonder what to think. And in the process, the declaration that he has received a three week ban is meaningless.