Italian flank Mauro Bergamasco was banned for 13 weeks after a Six Nations disciplinary panel on Wednesday found him guilty of gouging the eye of Wales fullback Lee Byrne during the Azzurri’s 8-47 Six Nations defeat in Cardiff last weekend.
Rugby 365 reports that the ban, which applies across all levels means Bergamasco, who plays his club rugby for French champions Stade Francais, could now miss the rest of the season as he won’t be able to resume playing until June.
He does, however, have the right of appeal, against a ban which rules him out of Italy’s Six Nations matches away to France on March 9 and at home to Scotland on March 15.
But Italy lock Carlo del Fava was cleared later Wednesday after being cited during the same match.
A statement issued on behalf of the Six Nations here Wednesday said: “Following a citing by the independent citing commissioner, Mauro Bergamasco, the Italy loose forward, has been suspended from playing for 13 weeks, from March 3, 2008, having been found to have deliberately placed his finger in the right eye of Lee Byrne, the Wales full back, in the Six Nations match on Saturday.
“Bergamasco will be free to resume playing on June 2 2008, and has the right of appeal.”
This season’s French Championship semifinals have been delayed until June 21 because of last year’s World Cup – which saw the start of the Top 14 competition being delayed until after October – with the French club Final a week later.
But whether Stade, should they qualify, will want to field a player who has been out for three months, if Bergamasco’s ban remains at its present length, is uncertain.
Stade’s flamboyant owner Max Guazzini was distraught about the ban and said the club was suffering for something that had not been done under their auspices.
“It is very bad news,” Guazzini told AFP.
“Bergamasco was playing for Italy. But it is the club who continues to pay during the suspension for an offence he did not commit while he was playing for them.
“Quite apart from the responsibility of the player, of which I will not pass comment, it is Stade Francais who have been penalised.
“It is a form of double penalty,” added Guazzini.
The 28-year-old Bergamasco and lock Carlo Antonio Del Fava, also cited for an incident during the Wales match, were both left out of the Italy squad announced by coach Nick Mallett on Tuesday for the France match.
Del Fava, now in line for an Italy recall, was cleared by the same panel, who said they were “not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, the player committed the alleged act of foul play and therefore dismissed the citing”.
Bergamasco’s participation was also clouded by a shoulder injury he suffered against Wales and the statement said his suspension would commence “after the player’s expected recovery from an existing injury”.
Explaining the length of Bergamasco’s ban, the Six Nations statement added: “The three-man disciplinary committee, chaired by Christopher Quinlan [England] and also comprising Barry O’Driscoll [Ireland] and Mike Rafter [England], considered the offence to merit an entry point in the mid range of sanctions laid down in the IRB [International Rugby Board] Regulation 17 and took into account the player’s admission of guilt and other mitigating factors.”
Bergamasco, who has scored 13 tries in 64 Tests, is widely regarded as one of Italy’s best players and his absence will be a further blow to a side still searching for its first Six Nations win this season after defeats against Ireland, England and Wales.
He is the older brother of Italy back Mirco Bergamasco, a teammate of his at Stade Francais.Tweet