Rugby-Wallabies' Koroibete cleared of red card, free to play Bledisloe Cup tests

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FILE PHOTO: Australia's Marika Koroibete scores a try against England at the Rugby World Cup 2019

MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Marika Koroibete of Australia is free to play again after his red card in Saturday's series-deciding win over France was overturned, World Rugby said on Monday, allowing him to play in the Bledisloe Cup tests next month.

Koroibete had faced suspension for several matches after being sent off in the fifth minute of the 33-30 match at Lang Park for a high tackle on France captain Anthony Jelonch.

With Jelonch having crouched low into the tackle and clutching his face as he fell, the red card triggered criticism from Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, who accused the French skipper of milking the penalty.

"The player Marika Koroibete admitted to technically committing an act of foul play worthy of a red card," World Rugby said in a statement.

Koroibete made shoulder to shoulder contact with Jelonch in the fifth minute of the game, although any contact to the chest and neck was incidental, it said.

"World Rugby’s Head Contact Process was not met due to mitigating factors, and the act of the foul play was secondary.

"On that basis, the committee did not uphold the red card and the player is free to play again immediately," it said.

If he had been found guilty, Koroibete faced a minimum six-week suspension before a reduction could have been allowed for mitigating factors.

He would likely have missed all three of Australia's upcoming Bledisloe Cup tests against the All Blacks starting at Eden Park on Aug. 7.

World Rugby has cracked down on high tackles due to concerns over the long-term impacts of concussion, turning what was once a trickle of red cards in international rugby into a flood in recent years.

Under pressure from coaches and players who have complained strict interpretations are killing matches, World Rugby has allowed the trial of a modified red card rule which allows a sent-off player to be replaced by another after 20 minutes.

The trial has not been approved for international tests, however.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom, additional reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Pullin and Hugh Lawson)

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