Wallabies great Tim Horan has called for tournament-specific rugby suspensions after Test playmaker Quade Cooper lost his appeal against a two-match ban that robs him of a eagerly-anticipated Bledisloe Cup debut.
Cooper copped a second blow in four days when a three-man appeals committee dismissed Australia’s objection to his punishment for Saturday night’s dangerous tackle on South African Morne Steyn.
The red-hot five-eighth will miss both Saturday night’s clash against the All Blacks at Etihad Stadium and the return encounter in Christchurch the following weekend.
Cooper’s punishment is effectively the most severe of three similar lifting tackles in consecutive Tri-Nations matches even though his offence was arguably the most tame.
His Australian Rugby Union legal counsel and coach Robbie Deans argued Springboks Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie were given more lenient bans as they could serve their time through missing provincial Currie Cup matches in South Africa.
While de Villiers’ tackle on All Black Rene Ranger was viewed as the most dangerous and Fourie had a prior conviction, they both only have to miss one Tri-Nations Test.
Horan, who acts as a rugby mentor for Cooper, also felt back-to-back Bledisloe Cup Tests was an overly harsh punishment for a lifting tackle that went wrong.
But the inconsistency of the sentence was the biggest issue for the 80-Test centre.
“It’s just a shame that the two Test matches are week after week (against NZ),” Horan said.
“In a competition any bans handed out should be served within that competition.
“If you commit an offence playing Currie Cup you miss Currie Cup matches and if you commit it in the Tri-Nations you miss Tri-Nations matches.”
Deans felt the same way after the appeal, which aimed as much for a reduction to a one match ban as a complete exoneration.
Asked if suspensions should served within the same competition, he said: “Yeah, ideally.”
“That’s obviously one manifestation if you like that hasn’t been consistent, but it depends where you sit,” Deans said.
“The critical message out of this for Quade and any subsequent players who find themselves in this circumstance and you’re in this predicament you lose control of your own destiny, so you’re much better to avert being in this predicament in the first place.”
“It (damage to Steyn) wasn’t serious but it could have been and you can’t have young kids seeing that and trying to imitate it,’ Horan said.
“It’s a shame but the Wallabies have a quality replacement in Berrick Barnes.”
Born in New Zealand’s Waikato province, Cooper must now hope he can break back into Australia’s team to make his first-ever appearance against his homeland in Sydney in September.
“I’m obviously pretty disappointed but at the same time we had a fair appeal,” he said.
“All I can do from here is work hard and concentrate on getting back out there at the due date.
“You have to learn from it. Hopefully I don’t get into this position again so I have to work on my technique.”
His loss remains a massive blow for the Wallabies as he has been their most dangerous player in their opening five Tests this year, winning two man-of-the-match awards.
It certainly reduces Australia’s unpredicatability against an All Black outfit looking to inflict an eighth straight win over their trans-Tasman rivals for their worst Bledisloe streak in 63 years.