Ulster tighthead prop Tom O’Toole will be suspended for Saturday’s trip to Edinburgh after being handed a three-week suspension for his red card against Toulouse in the second leg of their Heineken Champions Cup last-16 tie.
he prop was sent off by referee Matthew Carley for a 65th-minute tackle on Toulouse flanker Anthony Jelonch which saw his shoulder make contact with the French international’s head.
O’Toole went up in front of a disciplinary panel which found that he was guilty of breaching World Rugby’s Law 9.13 – a player must not tackle an opponent dangerously – and handed out the suspension accordingly.
The panel, chaired by Gareth Graham (England) and assisted by Marcello d’Orey (Portugal) and Martyn Wood (England), judged it to be worthy of a mid-range entry point of a six-week suspension.
That figure was halved due to O’Toole accepting the red card decision and submitting a guilty plea, as well as the prop’s clean disciplinary record and the fact that there were no aggravating factors leading to the incident.
The suspension is backdated to the Monday after the incident took place, the Ireland international is therefore banned until May 9, although he could see the ban reduced to two weeks and therefore be available on May 2 should he complete World Rugby’s Coaching Intervention course.
O’Toole is certain to miss Saturday’s United Rugby Championship trip to Edinburgh but that will be the only game he misses, regardless of whether he sees his ban reduced or not, with Ulster not back in action after this weekend until May 21 when they face the Cell C Sharks at Ravenhill.
In his absence, Ulster are likely to turn to Gareth Milasinovich for only his second start for the province at DAM Health Stadium on Saturday, with Ross Kane in line for a recall on the bench.
Interestingly, Ulster full-back Mike Lowry was also given a citing commissioner warning for his tackle in the air on Thomas Ramos during the same game, which went unpunished by the officials at the time.
The full-back took out his opposite number in the air shortly before O’Toole’s incident but, despite referring it to the TMO, Carley judged it to be a fair contest.
Players who accumulate three warnings, or who are shown three yellow cards for Foul Play offences, or a combination of both, during the pool stages and knockout stages of the Champions Cup will be required to attend a disciplinary hearing.
This is Lowry’s first warning.