NEWS
10/04/2011 08:08 EDT | Updated 12/04/2011 05:12 EST

Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini banned for 15 weeks for eye-gouging Ireland prop Cian Healy

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini was suspended for 15 weeks on Tuesday after admitting to eye-gouging Ireland prop Cian Healy in the Rugby World Cup.

Ghiraldini denied in a hearing his actions were deliberate in last Sunday's match, but judicial officer Bruce Squire disagreed in making his decision.

Eye-gouging was a top-end offence with a minimum sanction of 24 weeks, and a statement from World Cup organizers said Squire had wanted to lengthen the ban because the current penalties weren't proving a deterrent because eye-gouging's prevalence hadn't decreased.

But taking into account Ghiraldini's unblemished disciplinary record, the ban was reduced, keeping him out of rugby to Jan. 17.

Ghiraldini, Italy's backup captain, was the starting hooker in three of its four pool matches.

He has 41 caps since his debut in 2006. His club was Benetton Treviso.