Recruited by SANZAR ... Matt Dunning. Photo: Steve Christo
MATT DUNNING is among four former Wallabies recruited by SANZAR to advise judicial officers on dangerous tackles and other citable offences.
In an effort to improve the process and produce more consistent penalties for in-game offences, SANZAR will call on Dunning and former Wallabies Steve Kefu, David Croft and John Langford, as well as 11 other former players across South Africa and New Zealand, for expert advice on cases brought before full hearings.
Just a few days out from the start of the Super Rugby season, SANZAR chief Greg Peters said it would be compulsory for judicial officers to consult a nominated former player in the course of their deliberations.
''It will enable the judicial officer to have an adviser sitting with him who's played the game in the professional era and can provide advice on the more technical aspects of submissions mounted by players during the hearing,'' Peters said. ''If, for example, there was an issue about clearing out at the ruck and an argument was mounted by the player that he was coached to do it that way, the judicial officer could call on the advice of the former player sitting with him to see if the argument is accurate.''
SANZAR came under fire last year for wildly inconsistent rulings. In one instance Springbok Dean Greyling was handed a two-week suspension for a heavy strike on the jaw of Richie McCaw, while his teammate Eben Etzebeth was given the same sentence after trying and failing to land a headbutt on Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe.
Peters said the former players would be used only in cases that go to full hearings - such as the alleged eye-gouging incident between Rebels lock Adam Byrnes and Waratahs centre Tom Carter last year - and not the first time the case is heard, at which point a player may enter a guilty plea.
The provision could be particularly useful if a player is accused of making a dangerous tackle, as was the case in the final regular round of last season when Reds five-eighth Quade Cooper appeared to make a high tackle on Waratahs playmaker Berrick Barnes. Cooper pleaded not guilty and was subsequently given a one-match ban after a full hearing, meaning he missed the Reds' sudden-death match against the Sharks a week later. Under the new rules, a former player would act as a consultant for the judicial officer.
Peters said the players had been nominated by the relevant country's player association and SANZAR would avoid appointing a former player to a case if they had any prior involvement or alignment with the accused athlete or club. Just a few days out from the start of the new season, Peters also confirmed the role of the television match official had been expanded to allow them to rule on incidents up to two phases before a try was scored.
''Previously the TMO couldn't rule on anything but the grounding of the ball over the try line when a try was scored,'' Peters said.
The rules are part of a season-long global trial, starting in the SANZAR conferences first, with a view to the 2015 World Cup.