Ireland will be without Bundee Aki for their World Cup quarter-final clash against the All Blacks in Tokyo on Saturday after the centre was handed a three-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Samoa first five-eighths Ulupano Seuteni.
Aki was sent off by Australian referee Nic Berry 29 minutes into Ireland's 47-5 victory in Fukuoka which ensured their qualification for the knockout stages.
Joe Schmidt, the Ireland head coach, was hopeful that the Connacht player might avoid a suspension, with the Irish Rugby Football Union even flying a specialist lawyer, Derek Hegarty, to Japan for the hearing.
Ireland believe Aki had little chance to readjust his body after the Samoan reached a loose ball first. However, after deliberating for more than three hours, the three-man disciplinary panel ruled that there were "no clear and obvious mitigating factors".
"Although the tackle occurred quickly, the player's tackle height was high and it was accepted he did not make a definite attempt to change his height in order to avoid the ball carrier's head," the verdict read. "The committee did not accept there was sufficient evidence of a sudden drop in the ball carrier's height."
A six-week entry point ban was reduced to three for Aki's good disciplinary record. However, it effectively ends the player's World Cup with a maximum of three games remaining. The IRFU has 48 hours to consider whether to launch an appeal. It said in a statement that it was "disappointed" but would wait to read the full report before deciding whether to appeal.
Meanwhile, Schmidt was yesterday warned by New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen not to waste too much time studying the All Blacks as they might deliberately "set him up" by not revealing all that they intend to put into Saturday's "do-or-die" game.
Even though Ireland have beaten New Zealand in two of their past three encounters, there have been rumblings about the effectiveness of Schmidt's rigid approach. Ireland have faded across the past nine months, albeit rising to No1 in the rankings at a certain juncture.
"We know that Joe does a lot of study," said Hansen. "That can be a strength and a weakness. I might be able to set him up. Ireland are pretty set in how they play. Why would they want to change? It's been very successful for them.
"I think they are better than just a one-man team. But the 10 [Johnny Sexton] is pretty important. Ireland are a quality side. They've been No1 this year. It has taken them a long time to get there — they obviously enjoyed it [winning] — so they want to keep doing it. We played them in November and it was a titanic struggle, but on the day they were the better side. Most teams we play get 10 per cent better than they normally do. Ireland are no different. The big difference here is that it is a do-or-die game for both teams. Our last three results against them are a loss, a win, a loss so there won't be any complacency in our camp.
"Having a week off is not a bad thing," said Hansen. " It has allowed us to work hard. We are where we want to be."