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Saracens face fresh blow after Vunipola arrest with Itoje set for suspension
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Saracens face fresh blow after Vunipola arrest with Itoje set for suspension

Saracens’ woes have been compounded after Billy Vunipola’s arrest in Mallorca with Maro Itoje facing the prospect of a suspension that could rule him out for the club’s end-of-season run-in.

Only 24 hours after news of Vunipola’s arrest emerged, Itoje was cited for a dangerous tackle during Saracens’ 15-12 victory over Bath last Friday. Itoje was on Tuesday night due to appear at a disciplinary hearing with an announcement expected on Wednesday morning.

Vunipola, meanwhile, is due to face the music on Wednesday as he makes his first appearance at the club since he was tasered and arrested at a nightclub in Mallorca on a team bonding trip over the weekend. The No 8 paid a fine of €240 (£205) after his arrest on suspicion of a crime of disobedience and assaulting a police officer following an express trial in Palma before flying back to Stansted on Monday. He was also handed a four-month suspended prison sentence.

It is understood the players had a day off on Tuesday, but Vunipola is expected back at the club on Wednesday rather than being given an extended leave of absence.

Itoje was sent to the sin-bin for his tackle on Alfie Barbeary on Friday by the referee, Luke Pearce, but the citing officer has deemed the incident worthy of a red card. If the charge is upheld Itoje faces an entry-point ban of six weeks as contact was made with the head – a suspension that would rule him out of the first two Tests of England’s summer tour of Japan and New Zealand.

Billy VunipolaView image in fullscreen

The 29-year-old can expect mitigation, however, and a three-week ban, reduced to two on the basis he attends “tackle school” is a foreseeable outcome. That would still end Itoje’s domestic campaign as Saracens have two regular season matches remaining, though they currently sit in second place in the Premiership and are well-placed to reach the playoffs.

With Itoje’s availability for the run-in cast into doubt it remains to be seen what action Saracens will take against Vunipola. If they opt against imposing a ban on him, the Rugby Football Union could yet charge him with conduct prejudicial to the game.

The union could go as far as to dole out a suspension but working in Vunipola’s favour, it is understood that the warning he received in April 2019 for comments on social media that appeared to support Israel Folau, who had made homophobic remarks, is deemed to have expired.

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If Vunipola is banned he too could miss out on the run-in and what will be his final matches with Saracens as he prepares for a move to Montpellier in the summer. The Top 14 club are still fully expected to go ahead with the deal despite Vunipola’s misdemeanour in Mallorca.

The incident came to light along with CCTV footage in which Vunipola can be seen laughing while topless and surrounded by police and the bar’s security staff. He was stunned with a Taser twice after the first attempt struck his wallet before being escorted to Son Espases hospital at about 4.30am on Sunday morning.

On Monday, Vunipola apologised and said it was an “unfortunate misunderstanding” while Saracens said in a statement: “Saracens is aware of an incident involving Billy Vunipola in Mallorca. We will of course deal with this incident internally, and will not make any further comment until then.”

Source: theguardian.com