Western Force centre Kahui free to play against Chiefs after red card thrown out but game under a COVID cloud

Headshot of Nick Taylor
Nick TaylorThe West Australian
 Referee Ben O'Keeffe presents a red card to Richard Kahui.
Camera Icon Referee Ben O'Keeffe presents a red card to Richard Kahui. Credit: Joe Allison/Getty Images

Western Force centre Richard Kahui has had his controversial red card handed out in the 61-10 Super Rugby Pacific battering by the Highlanders thrown out.

But the Force’s Saturday clash with the Chiefs in Hamilton is under a cloud after the Kiwi side was hit with a COVID outbreak.

All Black World Cup winner Kahui was sent off in the 74th minute after colliding with Mitch Hunt in a tackle that lacked intent to attack the head but was deemed dangerous by the referee.

However a SANZAAR judiciary decided Kahui was not guilty..

“No further sanction has been imposed on Kahui and he is free to play,” SANZAAR said in a statement. Judicial committee chair Mike Mika ruled Kahui “had not committed an act of foul play worthy of the red card” and the incident was lowered to a yellow card.

“Whilst the incident is dangerous, the contact with the head was not intentional or highly reckless,” Mika said.

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 13: Richard Kahui of the Force tackles Mitch Hunt of the Highlanders during the round 13 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Highlanders and the Western Force at Forsyth Barr Stadium on May 13, 2022 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)
Camera IconWestern Force Richard Kahui tackles Highlanders Mitch Hunt. Credit: Joe Allison/Getty Images

“Kahui was shown to be lowering himself for the tackle...when a significant movement from the ball carrier meant that the late change in direction contributed to head contact.”

Meanwhile the Force are waiting to see if Saturday’s game against the Chiefs in Hamilton will go ahead after the Kiwis were hit by a COVID outbreak.

Chiefs coach Clayton McMillian believes his team can field a side despite a number of players contracting the virus.

It is the second time the Chiefs have been hit.

“I’m not at liberty to point out individuals but there is definitely a second wave coming through our environment that’s having significant impact on availability and selection,” McMillan said.

“And just to be clear, it’s also all of those that haven’t previously been infected.

“We, like most teams, have had a good portion of our squad that got it early on in the season and another 10 or 12 that for one reason or another just didn’t seem to pick it up when everyone else did.

“There’s now a number that have.

“It is what it is. It presents another challenge. We just need to embrace it and move forward.”

If the game is postponed it will cause a major headache for the Force whose match against Moana Pasifika last month was cancelled when they were unable to field a side because of COVID.

That match is due to be played on Tuesday at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium before they return home for the last game of the season against the Hurricanes.

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