Cape Town - Australian flank Michael Hopper has been suspended for one week after a SANZAR Judicial Hearing found him guilty of foul play during Saturday's Rugby Championship win over Argentina.
The incident occurred in the 59th minute of the match at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza.
The SANZAR Judicial Hearing was heard by Nigel Hampton QC, who ruled the following:
"As the Judicial Officer, I considered all the evidence before me including a number of videos which showed additional angles of the incident, medical reports for the Argentina flyhalf, Nicolas Sanchez, the citing commissioner's report for the incident and submissions made for the player by his legal representative, Anthony Black SC," said Hampton.
"It was submitted on Hooper’s behalf that the action he performed was part of an attempt to stop himself being held by Argentina player, Nicolas Sanchez. The action was described as a 'push with an open hand' and not a punch. It was submitted that this action was similar to a fend by a ball carrier attempting to stop himself from being tackled. It was also submitted that the offence could not be made out as a strike because the law specifically lists the offences as the use of a fist, arm or elbow but not an open hand.
"I found that this submission could not be accepted. Allowing open hand striking motions such as this of force to any part of an opposing player's body could not be deemed an act within the laws of the game and not able to be sanctioned. Striking with an open hand could fall within the definitions of a breach of Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking.
"The action can not be compared to a fend by a ball carrier. A fend is an accepted arm/hand movement made by a ball carrier on a would-be tackler. In this incident, the ball was not in play."
Despite the ban, Hooper will be in line to face New Zealand in the Rugby Championship decider on August 8.
"The Rugby Championship schedule is such that Australia's next match is in two weeks time on August 8, 2015. However, due to Hooper's limited playing time in the match in which he was cited, evidence was submitted and confirmed in the hearing that Hooper and other players who needed game time would be made available and scheduled to play on the weekend of August 1, 2015. The Sydney Club competition has qualifying finals this weekend with Hooper's club Manly to play Randwick on Saturday, August 1, 2015. I was officially advised in written form by all parties that if Hooper was available, he would play in this match. I was also advised that other players were being made available to their clubs which I accepted.
"I found this match could not be considered inconsequential and would have meaningful consequence for Hooper given his current competition and rotation within the Australian squad. The player has a close allegiance to the Manly club who have an important match this weekend and he expressed his desire to play in the match following the Argentina v Australia match. Under Regulation 17, all matches are equal and if a player is scheduled to play, then the match should be included in the suspension if it has meaningful consequence to the player.
"The player is found to have contravened Law 10.4 (a) and is suspended up to and including Saturday, August 1, 2015."