Ben Flower: Wigan prop ban 'the right thing' - Gareth Thomas

Flower sent off for punch as Saints win

Former dual-code Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas feels public pressure led to a long suspension for Wigan's Welsh prop Ben Flower.

Flower has been given a six-month ban, the longest in Super League history, for punching St Helens' Lance Hohaia in Wigan's 14-6 Grand Final defeat.

The ban until 14 April takes in 10 Super League games and the World Club Series match against Brisbane Broncos.

"It could be deemed as probably the right thing," Thomas said.

"A six-month ban could be deemed excessive in rugby terms.

"But actually when you look at what's happened there was so much call for him to have this length of ban, if not longer.

"A rugby player can't be punished any more than he was by leaving the field on Saturday and realising the fact that in a Grand Final he let his team-mates down."

The 26-year-old punched Hohaia to the ground two minutes into Saturday's Grand Final, then landed a second blow to his face while he lay on the ground and was immediately sent off by referee Phil Bentham.

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Flower was charged with a Grade F offence - the most serious in the sport's disciplinary rules - of "violent and aggressive punching" and "punching an off-guard opponent", a charge which carries a minimum of an eight-game ban.

Thomas, a former Crusaders team-mate, says he will will stand by his friend despite Flower's actions and subsequent ban.

"There's a fine line between losing it and keeping on the fine line of physical aggression within the laws of the game," Thomas told BBC Radio 5 live.

"I'll stand by him as a friend. It was one act of madness that was out of character for a man who is very proud, very passionate, very honest, hard working and the kind of guy you want on your team."

Wigan rugby general manager Kris Radlinski, who accompanied Flower to the hearing at the Rugby Football League in Leeds, said in a statement: "Wigan Warriors would like to go on record in saying that the RFL disciplinary committee handled a very difficult situation with professionalism and integrity.

"We fully support their assessment of Saturday night's incident involving our player, Ben Flower. We will be making no appeal.

"We would like to apologise to Lance Hohaia and his family and to the St Helens club and fans. St Helens' win on Saturday has been overshadowed by the incident and that is wrong."

New Zealander Hohaia had already accepted a one-game suspension for a forearm strike which came before Flower's punches.

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