Blues centre Rua Tipoki has been suspended for 16 weeks after being found guilty of striking and severely injuring Force flyhalf James Hilgendorf.
The sentence is the heaviest ever handed down to a New Zealand player.
Tipoki, who scored three tries in the Blues’ 39-8 win over the Force on Friday, received no mercy from the Sanzar judiciary in a hastily convened meeting in Auckland on Saturday morning.
Tipoki appeared to catch Hilgendorf with an elbow as he joined a tackle early in the first half. Higlendorf lay prone on the ground for some time before being helped off the field.
The Force player suffered considerable injury including a fracture of the eye socket, a laceration over the left eyebrow and concussion. The Force team doctor indicated the injuries might possibly leave some degree of permanent impairment.
The judiciary noted Tipoki’s dubious record of two previous striking charges and the injury to Hilgendorf which forced him from the field with a cut face, fractured eye socket and concussion. There are fears there could be long-term health consequences for the Australian.