Manu Tuilagi smashes Tom Williams

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Wales vs England 1999

Greg Holmes great hit on Francois Louw

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Neil Best eye-gouging incident

Northampton flanker Neil Best was recently handed an eighteen week ban after he was found guilty of eye-gouging James Haskell when the Northampton Saints played Wasps on the 20th of September.

Northampton have lodged an official appeal against the ban, to which a RFU panel will hear the appeal case on this coming Monday, ruling Best out until the final appeal verdict.

Upon being cited as making contact with Haskell’s eye area with his hand, Best will not be allowed to play again until the 28th of January.

That rules him out of Ireland’s three November internationals and seventeen Saints games throughout the Guinness Premiership, EDF Energy Cup, and the European Challenge Cup.

Haskell, who was taken to hospital following the match, was found to have swelling and abrasions around his eyes while reportedly also complained that his vision had been affected.

RFU disciplinary officer Jeff Blackett, Best said he had acted "recklessly but not deliberately".

Best apologised on to Haskell on the field and it was accepted that he did not intend to cause serious injury, but nevertheless the offence was judged to be ‘towards the top end of the scale of seriousness’.

We’ve found a short clip from The Rugby Club that features the incident. Decide for yourself if you think the severity of the ruling is just, or completely spot on.



  • i cant even see it, but if it was deemed reckless but not malicious it seems a lil steep


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 4:27 pm  

  • what are they talking about best is a dirty player!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 4:42 pm  

  • oh there it is haha i think it was just something that happens maybe 2 weeks


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 4:53 pm  

  • I think they have got this all wrong....he is clearly just rucking Haskell out. If the contact is not deliberate then this ban is excessive.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 5:08 pm  

  • 16 weeks,WHAT THE FUCK?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 7:16 pm  

  • 16, weeks WHAT THE FUCK yeah?
    Money involved in the decision?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 7:26 pm  

  • Look closely. He pulls him by his eye socket. The level of damage that could occur is massive.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 7:30 pm  

  • It looks reckless but things like that happen all the time, only this time it just happened to cause an injury. It might be reckless but how can you punish an accident? An accident is exactly that. If Best had tackled Haskell and Haskell happened to receive an injury accidentally, would we be looking at a multiple week long ban? No, of course not and it should be the case for this incident either. He should have received a ban for recklessness (a fortnight, maybe) and got a warning about his future habits in close-quarter situations but 18 weeks is devastating to the player and debilitating to the sport.

    This kind of thing really annoys me. I remember an incident a few seasons back when a player was penalised for accidentally tripping an opponent. I believe the ref said as much to the player; it could be heard over the microphone. Yet, how can you punish someone for accidentally tripping? Either it's an accident and it's just an unfortunate but unsurprising occurrence in an regularly chaotic contact sport, or it's deliberate and should be penalised.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 7:33 pm  

  • It may be accidental, of course, but why did he even have hands on Haskell's face in the first place? What would you expect to happen when you pull the guy by the face?

    The ban is pretty steep, sure, but I wouldn't say he should have gotten away with it completely by any means. He's still guilty IMO.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 8:00 pm  

  • i reckon its a bit harsh. like jambo said he is just rucking haskell out. he doesnt take a look at haskell's face and aim specifically for it, so i don't reckon its deliberate. he also doesnt keep gouging, but by the looks of it, once he realised, he took his finger away from his face.
    sadly it happens sometimes accidently, but not often!

    Poor haskell though!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 9:20 pm  

  • hm well....
    it's all a bit about sympathy isn't it?
    imo best just tries to ruck him away and leaves him in the very moment that he notices he hits his face. some might say that he did this on purpose to avoid the ref spotting it, but well... dunno... as i said, it's all about sympathy or dislike...
    i love the saints, so i say it was without purpose :D still, to be punished - 2-4 weeks should be enough!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 03, 2008 10:27 pm  

  • haskel gets 1 week for a headbutt by the RFU commity with an ex wasp player sitting on it, and wasps claim that week as a rest week for haskels england elite squad commitments.

    a non english player comes up before the board and gets 18 weeks,for something they describe as reckless but not intentional fairness in action. if best was on the england panel can anyone say hand on heart his ban would have been so severe.

    and neil best is not a dirty player, he has never come up before a citing commision before.

    By Blogger Unknown, at October 04, 2008 12:00 am  

  • 8 weeks would more than suffice
    Looked accidental but need to safegruard ppl's eyes

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 04, 2008 12:33 am  

  • neil best is not a dirty player...he hits hard ye...but he doesnt play dirty!and 16 weeks is harsh for an "accident"


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 04, 2008 2:04 am  

  • He should receive a ban for pulling on Haskell's face. What did he think his fingers would latch on to?

    But 1/3 of a year?

    It didn't seem intentional so banning him that long is mind boggling.

    May be 2-4 weeks would have be enough.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 04, 2008 2:28 am  

  • incredible that he gets 4 and a half months for an accident yet Haskell got 2 weeks for accidentally using the head.

    I'm wasps fan but it just smacks of double standards by the RFU, ones an english elite player and ones an irish elite player, yet both were found not guilty of deliberate dangerous play and yet best gets 18 weeks?

    Sorry but that's just wrong.

    If it's not deliberate, and just accidental as the RFU have said then he shouldn't even be banned.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 04, 2008 11:05 am  

  • For any of you interested in getting more background than a clip of the incident and some Sky commentary before making your own judgements, try reading the citing report.

    By Blogger Rawling, at October 04, 2008 12:23 pm  

  • Playing rugby myself i have been essentially accientally punched in the face in and around the ruck area, its a dangerous place and things like this happen, hell in my last game i was punched in the eye by my own team mate and then later in the other eye by an opponent.
    the difference between a closed fist accidentaly punching someone and an open fist putting a finger in his eye is quite minimal really, yes a professional should be more careful and he should face some time but either the RFU think its deliberate or dirty and he deserves such a long ban or they think it was an accident and 16 weeks is absurd.
    the only conclusion i can draw is that really they think it was deliberate but they don't want to say so.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 04, 2008 12:27 pm  

  • I am sorry but een 2 week ban will be ok for this. 16 weeks is really not in any proportions to what happened.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 04, 2008 1:12 pm  

  • This is embarrassing for the sport.

    18 weeks, thats 4 and a half months that basically rule him out of 17 Northampton matches, the Ireland autumn internationals and the 6N given that he cant play until January.

    All for an "accident"

    Please someone tell me if Haskell had to be rushed to hospital after the match, how was he able to continue playing in the match after it happened?

    Some seriously dodgey politics going on here I reckon.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 04, 2008 3:50 pm  

  • 4 months seems a bit steep for something you could barely see. In addition, what i did see looked accidental, plus Best hasn't had a discipline problem yet. 3 weeks and a firm talking to were in order

    By Blogger Big Ginger, at October 04, 2008 4:33 pm  

  • This would never happen to an England player. If it was Wilko he wouldnt even get 2 weeks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 04, 2008 5:30 pm  

  • Probably a bit harsh

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 04, 2008 6:05 pm  

  • Well, Blogger seems to have broken my link to the citing report - try http://tinyurl.com/4fq4cs

    Highlights include
    a. The Panel had already determined that, although initial contact with the eye was reckless, the continuing contact was deliberate. We accept, however, that the Player did not intend to inflict serious injury to Haskell although he intended to apply sufficient discomfort to move Haskell out of the way and release the ball.

    b. The nature of the Player’s actions was grave. Placing fingers in and around opponent’s eyes constitutes one of the most serious offences in the Game because of the risk of permanent career-ending damage.

    c. Contact was clearly painful and caused significant injury, continuing distress and some mental anguish to Haskell who initially feared first for his sight and subsequently that he may not be able to play again. The Panel concluded that, given the dynamic situation at the ruck and the force applied, the Player was fortunate that the injuries were not even more serious.

    Also note the ban for the offense had to be at least 24 weeks, and could have been as long as 3 years. The panel decided on 36 weeks, reduced by 50% to 18 weeks for how Best behaved afterwards.

    By Blogger Rawling, at October 04, 2008 10:39 pm  

  • I already posted about this subject, RFU sould be hard on this kind of acidents, so players remeber Neil Best incident before they clear a ruck.
    Im a flanker, and i dont use my hands to clear a ruck, and if i want to grab something i dont grab anyone by the head.

    i reckon it could have been accidently, still, it was dangerouse play, he have to deal with it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 04, 2008 11:04 pm  

  • Rawling, can you also post up the haskell report?

    be interesting to see the comparisons between the two, because his verdict was similar.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 05, 2008 2:49 am  

  • This kind of ban won't deter shit. It's an absurdly harsh ruling on something that was almost certainly accidental.

    I don't believe that any player will think of this incident as they go into a ruck.

    Someone is going to get poked in the eye again. It happens. Yeah, Best is lucky that there was no permanent damage. He's also pretty unlucky that his fingers landed on an eye socket in the first place.

    ..."significant injury, continuing distress, and mental anguish" ?

    This long of a ban drastically affects his career...all I can say is that I'm happy they're appealing (though he could potentially receive a longer sentence for doing so...)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 05, 2008 4:55 am  

  • it's hard to judge how long the ban should be, however the guys need to be a bit careful. Rugby is a rough enough game, but it doesn't mean you can throw your fingers around carelessly... If the RFU or any instance let go on the fact that it was not intentional, it opens the way to more of this... Rough hits, big tackles and charges, dragging all you want as long as you don't incur severe injuries... injured players... don't play anymore!
    as I Am Not Anonymous says, he's pulling him by the eyes sockets, come on

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 05, 2008 6:16 am  

  • I agree with the panel - initial contact not deliberate, but he did not release, perhaps until he realised the gravity of what he was doing. Even so 18 weeks is a looooong time. Clearly deliberate punches, high tackles, head butts and spear tackles have not received 18 week bans, and they can leave you seriously injured, paralysed or dead (if you break your neck)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 05, 2008 12:08 pm  

  • Haskell gets a frigging week for headbutting someone? this is not worthy of an 18week ban.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 06, 2008 3:25 pm  

  • seemingly it wasnt the first case of gouging by neil best in the game.i think hes a dirty bastard and deserves the ban

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 06, 2008 8:05 pm  

  • at above, best has never been cited before, thats in around 150 appearances. He is well known as a hard but fair player, not dirty. Show proof of your previous eye gouging claims.

    By Blogger Unknown, at October 06, 2008 9:34 pm  

  • shouldent have been pulling at his face anyway! but if it was accidental it does seem abit harsh!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 07, 2008 2:40 pm  

  • to reply to ross,several wasps players complained about him gouging.hes filthy

    By Blogger Unknown, at October 07, 2008 6:55 pm  

  • Best / Haskell Citing Report Article 19.
    There were no off field aggravating features (the deterrent element being included in the calculation of the entry point) but significant mitigating factors. The Player immediately acknowledged that he had caused the injury and indicated that he would admit the offence well before the hearing. As a result Northampton did not select him to play for the next league match after this game. The Player has an excellent record and is highly respected by those who have spoken on his behalf. The Panel were particularly impressed by the evidence of Alan Solomons, who thought so highly of the Player that, on hearing of the incident, volunteered to give evidence on his behalf. His conduct prior to and at the hearing was impeccable and his remorse was genuine and sincere. In those circumstances the Player deserves the maximum possible credit of 50% from the entry point. The appropriate sanction is, therefore, a suspension of 18 weeks. In reaching this conclusion the Panel has taken into consideration the fact that this offence was entirely out of character and will be a significant blemish on his record. We also took into account the damaging effect this will have on the Player’s club and international playing career and the risk that he will suffer financial loss. The Panel is satisfied that this is commensurate and proportionate with the seriousness of the offence.

    20. The Player is therefore suspended from 24 September 2008 (the date of the citing) to 27 January 2009. He may play again on 28 January 2009.


    21. Costs of £250.00 are awarded against the Player/club.

    By Blogger Disco, at October 10, 2008 9:11 pm  

  • This past weekend in a scrimmage, I had an opposing prop stick stick the whole bottom part of his hand in my eye and no disciplinary action was taken.

    I had to go to the hospital and had abrasions on my face, a hematoma on my eyeball and a scratched cornea in two spots. Its been 6 days and my vision is still blurry!

    Didn't even get an apology from the twat!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2008 9:50 pm  

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