All Blacks' Hore gets five-week ban
New Zealand hooker Andrew Hore is set to miss Saturday's international against England at Twickenham after receiving a five-week ban on Wednesday for striking Wales lock Bradley Davies.
Hore's suspension will run until February 24 next year to ensure he misses three pre-season Super Rugby warm-up matches for the Highlanders.
Davies was taken to hospital after he was hit from behind by Hore inside the opening minute of world champions New Zealand's 33-10 win over Wales at the Millennium Stadium last Saturday.
International Rugby Board (IRB) judicial officer Professor Lorne Crerar of Scotland, ruled Hore's swinging arm was "inherently dangerous" but accepted the All Blacks' hooker had not "intended" to make contact with Davies's head.
Crerar was initially minded to give Hore an eight-week ban for a 'top-end' offence of this type, but reduced the suspension to five weeks when taking into account such mitigating factors as the New Zealander's daily contact with Davies since the incident.
Given Hore is about to enter the close season, Crerar considered when the ban should end.
A statement issued by the Six Nations Committee, which oversees disciplinary matters for the IRB during the European autumn series, said Crerar had received "unreserved assurances" from All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster, Hore and his legal representatives that missing three pre-season matches would have "significant and meaningful consequences" for the player.
With veteran hooker Keven Mealamu currently struggling with a calf injury, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen may have to give Dane Coles a first test start when he names his team to play England on Thursday.
Hore's hit, not seen by South African referee Craig Joubert or his touch judges, left Davies with concussion that has ruled the Wales second row out of their European autumn series finale against Australia this weekend.
Wales assistant coach Rob Howley labelled the punch an "absolute disgrace," with the former test scrum-half insisting: "What Hore did has got no place on a rugby field as far as I am concerned."
Even the New Zealand rugby media, who along with the All Blacks themselves have long believed the side is often harshly treated by European disciplinary tribunals, wasted little time in condemning Hore's action.
Veteran rugby commentator Keith Quinn told Radio New Zealand listeners Hore had been guilty of a "boneheaded act" while the New Zealand Herald's Gregor Paul said: "Andrew Hore's act of stupidity will have confirmed in every Northern Hemisphere mind the long-held notion of the All Blacks as perennial thugs."
New Zealand will arrive at Twickenham on a 20-match unbeaten run, having won their last nine tests against England.