The head-butting Fijian manages to escape any ban

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The Independent Online

THE MADNESS continues. Marika Vunibaka, the Fijian wing with the exceedingly hard forehead, yesterday contrived to persuade a World Cup disciplinary panel that the butt he landed on a Canadian player in Bordeaux last Saturday was not worthy of an extended ban - or, indeed, a ban of any description. The three-man tribunal, chaired by a New Zealand judge, decided that Vunibaka's dismissal from the field had constituted "sufficient punishment". He is free to face the French in this weekend's Pool C decider in Toulouse.

THE MADNESS continues. Marika Vunibaka, the Fijian wing with the exceedingly hard forehead, yesterday contrived to persuade a World Cup disciplinary panel that the butt he landed on a Canadian player in Bordeaux last Saturday was not worthy of an extended ban - or, indeed, a ban of any description. The three-man tribunal, chaired by a New Zealand judge, decided that Vunibaka's dismissal from the field had constituted "sufficient punishment". He is free to face the French in this weekend's Pool C decider in Toulouse.

At the same time, the panel banned Toutai Kefu, the Wallaby No 8, and Trevor Brennan, the Irish flanker, until 24 and 20 October respectively for their excesses during the fiery Pool E match at Lansdowne Road on Sunday. Assuming the tournament pans out according to its seeding, both men will pay for their flirtation with the pugilistic art by missing two games. The suspension will hurt Kefu rather more than Brennan, however. Australia's in-form loose forward cannot now play in his country's anticipated quarter-final tie with Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday week.

Two other players, the Australian centre Daniel Herbert and the Canadian flanker John Hutchinson, were cleared of their citing charges. Herbert had been accused of hitting Kevin Maggs, his Irish opposite number, with a high and dangerous tackle, while Hutchinson was hauled before the panel on a punching charge. The Wallaby hierarchy anticipated that Kefu's fist-work would earn him a ban, even though he had been provoked by Brennan, but they were certain that Herbert would escape punishment.

Five players have now been suspended for greater or lesser chunks of the tournament. Siua Taumalolo, the Tongan full-back, is serving a 21-day rap for a high tackle on an All Black; Roberto Grau, the Argentinian prop, is doing similar time for punching Colin Charvis of Wales during the opening match of the competition; and Charvis himself is on a 14-day suspension for punching Grau back. Both Taumalolo and Charvis appealed against their bans on Monday, but to no avail.

Vunibaka's "result" - you can read into that what you will - is already occupying an elevated position in the annals of World Cup disciplinary history. His tête-à-tête with Kyle Nichols, the Canadian centre, occurred in the 81st minute of last weekend's match and, after taking advice from his touch-judge, the referee Ed Morrison dismissed the Fijian. Given that the game ended almost immediately, Vunibaka must be the first player to be dismissed in a tournament and not miss any action whatsoever.

Quite what Charvis and Taumalolo think of it is anyone's guess.

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