/ Rugby

Australia's Scott Higginbotham to miss Tests against England and France for striking Richie McCaw

Updated: Monday, 22 Oct 2012 14:38

Higginbotham will be available again to face Italy on 24 November
Higginbotham will be available again to face Italy on 24 November

Australia forward Scott Higginbotham has been banned for two matches after admitting two charges of striking New Zealand captain Richie McCaw.

Higginbotham has been ruled out of the Wallabies next two Tests against France on 10 November and England on 17 November 

Higginbotham was charged by SANZAR with kneeing and head-butting McCaw during Saturday's Bledisloe Test match in Brisbane which ended in an 18-18 draw.

He faced hearing on Sunday after he was cited twice for Punching or Striking. Both incidents occurred in the 26th minute of the game, with the 26-year-old pleading guilty to both counts.

Having reviewed the case, duty Judicial Officer Jannie Lubbe assessed the penalty for each charge to be two matches, but ruled Higginbotham could serve the suspensions concurrently, meaning the forward was only ruled out for half the games in the four-match tour of Europe.

Higginbotham, therefore, will be able to play again against Italy and Wales.

In making the decision, Lubbe said he took into account the fact both incidents were categorised as low-level offences, with McCaw unhurt by either hit.

Lubbe also considered the fact it was Higginbotham's first appearance before the judiciary and that he and McCaw both shook hands after the match in an indication there was no ill-feeling between the players.

Higginbotham's availability will come as a major boost for the injury-hit Wallabies, who will be without skipper James Horwill for the entire tour due to complications from a hamstring injury.

Stephen Moore (hamstring) and Berrick Barnes (punctured lung) have been cleared to return to the side for the tour, but coach Robbie Deans has ruled out Quade Cooper, Will Genia and James O'Connor.

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