Rugby World Cup 2011
Welsh captain banned
Warburton floors Clerk (AP)
Auckland - Wales captain Sam Warburton was given a three-week ban here on Sunday following his red card for a dangerous tip tackle in the World Cup semi-final defeat by France.
The suspension rules the 23-year-old openside flanker out of next week's third place playoff against Australia.
Irish referee Alain Rolland showed Warburton a straight red card in the 19th minute following a tackle on Vincent Clerc at Eden Park here on Saturday that saw the France wing land on his head after being lifted in the air.
Warburton admitted committing a "dangerous tip tackle", a statement released by the International Rugby Board (IRB) said on Sunday.
Before the World Cup started, the IRB reiterated tackles involving a player being lifted off the ground and tipped horizontally and then forced or dropped to the ground are illegal and constitute dangerous play.
The IRB memorandum issued on June 8, 2009 stated such tackles "must be dealt with severely by referees and those involved in the off-field disciplinary process."
Independent judicial officer Christopher Quinlan of England said Rolland's decision to send off Warburton, criticised by many pundits, was in line with IRB directives and concluded the offence was "mid-range" on the scale of seriousness, which has an entry point of six weeks.
But taking account of Warburton's admission, "outstanding character, disciplinary record and remorse," he reduced the ban to three weeks.
The suspension takes effect immediately. Warburton, free to resume playing on November 7, has 48 hours in which to appeal from the time he was informed of the decision.
Wales were leading 3-0 at the time Warburton was dismissed at Eden Park here on Saturday thanks to a James Hook penalty.
But they went on to lose 9-8, with scrumhalf Morgan Parra slotting three penalties for France while scrumhalf Mike Phillips scored the only try of the game for the Welsh.
Wales coach Warren Gatland said Rolland's decision had cost his side a place in the final, while Warburton insisted he'd had no intention of harming Clerc.
"I'm gutted but there was no malicious intent," Warburton said Saturday.
"I thought it was a normal tackle, next thing I was walking off into the stands."
Former Wales flyhalf Phil Bennett summed up the mood of many of his rugby-obsessed compatriots when he said on Sunday that Rolland's ruling was "technically correct, but morally wrong, emotionally wrong, wrong to the bottom of my gut".