Reckless rather than malicious appears to be the consensus on Adam Thomson's footwork on Alasdair Strokosch's head, but the All Black flanker could nonetheless be slapped with a tour-ending ban.
The video evidence is clear and beyond dispute - Thomson struck his opposite number's head with his boot four minutes into the second half. Rather than hide behind the procedural will-need-to-have-another-look line, the respective coach's of both sides passed comment on the incident that saw Thomson yellow-carded.
Andy Robinson was, predictably, the more forthright, answering with little ambiguity when asked if he felt a red card would have been a more appropriate sanction: "You would think so," he said, "the touch judge had a very good view of it."
Steve Hansen's take was, just as understandably, a little more forgiving. "To be fair I haven't seen it other than what I saw on the replay and it looked to me like he [Thomson] got frustrated because someone was lying over the ball and he placed his foot on the guy's head," said Hansen. "He didn't stomp - which is one good thing - but the rules say you can't, so someone will be looking at it."
There is no debate on whether it happened. Citing officer Murray Whyte, who has until Tuesday afternoon UK time to refer the case on to judicial officer Jean-Noel Couraud, will need to guess at the level of intent in Thomson's actions. Again, beyond dispute is that Thomson had a prolonged look at the turf, seemed to determine there was human matter between his studs and the ball and committed to clearing a path.
"If it had been intentional hed have done a lot more damage. It didn't feel like a stamp," said Strokosch in mitigation.
His footwork was deliberate but gentle and even had Strokosch not being wearing headgear, its doubtful that claret would have been drawn. But still, the rules are clear - the head can't be kicked, or even gently scraped. However little conviction there was in Thomson's actions, his boots made contact with the head and that opens him up to the possibility of a suspension that precedent would suggest could be anything from three weeks to eight.
If Thomson is hit with such a ban that will effectively end his tour and possibly even his test career. The Highlanders flanker remains in limbo about his plans for next year and to date hasn't declared his intention. He may wash up in Super Rugby - if not this year, then certainly next and he remains a player of considerable interest to Hansen.
Versatile and reliable, Thomson has been solid over the years for the All Blacks without nailing a starting berth. Sunday's test was a significant opportunity for him to push his claim for further involvement in the tour and, the Strokosch incident aside, Hansen was happy enough with what he saw. "He played pretty well other than that," reckoned the coach, but that won't save him if he's suspended from playing.
Thomson was unlikely to be involved in this week's Italy test anyway with every player having been promised a game in the opening two tests.By Gregor Paul in Edinburgh