Wasps director of rugby Dai Young has called for a wholesale reform of rugby's disciplinary process after Nathan Hughes' six-week ban for punching.
As a result, Hughes will miss England's autumn fixtures against South Africa, New Zealand and Japan. Initially, Hughes was banned for four weeks but after tweeting "what a joke" during the hearing, a reconvened disciplinary panel added an extra two weeks to his punishment. Given that he would have been a certainty to replace the injured Billy Vunipola at No 8, Hughes' three-word tweet effectively cost him £50,000 in match fees.
Young did not dispute the need to punish Hughes' social media discretion, but says the initial punishment for punching Gloucester's Lewis Ludlow reveals a flaw in the system. "I feel for him," Young said. "If someone jumps on you on the floor and you end up with a forearm to your throat and you get cited trying to get them off then you are going to be frustrated. You can understand why he was upset about it.
"From our point of view, then if you look at the letter of the law and the regs, then the panel has nowhere to go. Did he make contact with the face? Yes he did so there's no denying that. It wasn't a punch. For him to get a citing was ridiculous and then the ban was even worse. Then he didn't help himself. It was a costly mistake with him wanting to play for England."
By way of comparison, Mathieu Bastareaud, the Toulon and France centre, received a five-week ban for a deliberate forearm smash on a prone player and Dominic Robertson-McCoy, the Connacht prop, a six-week ban for stamping on Josh van der Flier's head. Even if they were adjudicated under different disciplinary processes, Young remains highly frustrated that malicious acts are judged the same as accidental ones.
"The whole process needs to be looked at really," Young said. "It was very difficult for the panel to do anything differently. The regs are there and they have to tick every box. The issue that you have got is that when they get cited there's no discretion in the panel. They can't look at mitigating circumstances.
"We all want to take the thugs out of the game. We all want to clamp down on acts that are going to hurt players. I feel for the panel because they have nowhere really to go on it.
"There are a number of incidents you can point to where there can be more of a common-sense, rugby approach. That needs to be looked at going forward."
It was a bad week all round in the Young household with Dai's son, Thomas, missing out on selection for Wales' autumn international squad despite the absence of several back-rowers.
"He gets his head down and gets on with it, but for me I just find it hugely frustrating," Young said.
"I can't see why he hasn't made the squad. It just seems to me it will always be anyone bar him.''