Saracens’ Billy Vunipola cleared to play after red card against Bulls overturned

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Billy Vunipola’s red card he received during Saracens’ Investec Champions Cup clash against the Bulls in South Africa has been overturned.

It means that the England number eight is free to play immediately, making him available for Saturday’s European appointment with Connacht.

Vunipola was sent off early in the second half by Italian referee Andrea Piardi for a dangerous strike to the head area of Bulls forward Cameron Hanekom.

The 31-year-old, who appeared by video link before an independent disciplinary panel, accepted that he had committed an act of foul play, but he did not accept it warranted a red card.

Tournament organiser European Professional Club Rugby said: “The committee determined that Vunipola had committed an act of foul play.

“However, it decided that there was insufficient force in the contact to Hanekom’s head to warrant a red card, and the red card was therefore overturned.

“Vunipola is free to play immediately, and EPCR has the right to appeal the decision.”

Reflecting on the outcome, Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said: “It was good news for us and probably the right decision.

“The panel heard and saw all the evidence and decided it was a yellow card, not red, and we are grateful to have Billy available immediately.”

Saracens were beaten 27-16 by the Bulls in the first of their four Champions Cup pool games.

A citing complaint against Bristol wing Kalaveti Ravouvou, meanwhile, has been dismissed.

Ravouvou was yellow-carded following a tackle on Lyon’s Alexandre Tchaptchet during a Champions Cup fixture at Ashton Gate.

EPCR added: “The committee determined that Ravouvou had committed an act of foul play and that the match officials were not wrong in issuing him with a yellow card.

“However, it decided that his actions did not warrant a red card and the citing complaint was dismissed. Ravouvou is free to play immediately.”

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