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France's Estebanez banned for rest of World Cup

Updated: October 03, 2011, 08:08


AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) France center Fabrice Estebanez will miss the rest of the World Cup after being suspended for three weeks for a dangerous tackle in the upset loss to Tonga.

Estebanez was suspended late Monday after a judicial hearing in Auckland, where he admitted making the tip tackle on Tongan replacement lock Joe Tu'ineau in the second half of Saturday's 19-14 defeat in Wellington.

The suspension will run until Oct. 24, the day after the World Cup final.

France is playing a quarterfinal Saturday against 2003 champion England, which finished atop Pool B.

France's World Cup campaign has been full of frustration so far, with team harmony at a low point following difficult wins over Japan and Canada before back-to-back losses to New Zealand and Tonga in Pool A.

The French only ensure qualification for the knockout round when winger Vincent Clerc scored in the corner in the last seconds on Saturday to earn a bonus point for losing by fewer than seven points against Tonga.

Rugby World Cup judicial officer Christopher Quinlan of England found Estebanez guilty of a mid-range dangerous tackle after reviewing footage and taking evidence from the player. Estebanez was yellow carded during the match. France has 48 hours to appeal.

His suspension means a player from each team was suspended in the wake of the match.

After a hearing late Sunday, Quinlan banned Tongan winger Sukanaialu Hufanga for five weeks for a dangerous tip tackle on Clerc just before halftime. Hufanga cannot resume playing before Nov. 7.

A series of other players have been cited over weekend incidents. England winger Delon Armitage was banned for one week for a high tackle on rival fullback Chris Paterson in the 16-12 win over Scotland in Pool B on Saturday night and will miss the quarterfinal against France.

Georgia winger Lekso Gugava was suspended by Jean-Noel Couraud of France for five weeks for a tip tackle on Argentina center Felipe Contepomi during the Pumas' 25-7 win on Sunday.

And Samoa center Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu is due to face a misconduct hearing for criticizing Welsh referee Nigel Owens' performance.

Fuimaono-Sapolu described Owens' refereeing as "absolutely horrendous'' on Twitter after Samoa lost 13-5 to South Africa on Friday night, adding: "get s.a into next round. The plan was obvious. Can't wait 2 meet irb members in public.''

The International Rugby Board issued a statement saying "the charge follows a previous formal warning issued to the Samoa Rugby Union regarding social media conduct by the same player.''

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