SCOTLAND players Jonny Gray and Ross Ford were suspended for three weeks after some of the evidence from the match referee was ruled to be inadmissible, it has been revealed. The two men have until tomorrow afternoon to appeal against the ban, imposed for an act of foul play in Scotland’s game against Samoa. Unless such an appeal succeeds, they will miss Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia and any subsequent games in the tournament.

The team management received the full 16-page judgement on Gray and Ford from independent judicial officer Christopher Quinlan yesterday afternoon, and have yet to decide whether to appeal against the bans handed out to both men. There are several possible points of contestation in a complex and lengthy document, but one particularly contentious area is the over-ruling of evidence given by Jaco Peyper, the South African referee.

The match official insisted that he had dealt with the incident correctly by awarding a penalty against Scotland for another offence, and implied that Samoa’s Jack Lam had not had his safety endangered to the extent that the charge had alleged. “After our internal performance review process I am satisfied that that I dealt with the incident appropriately,” he wrote at the end of a statement submitted by email.

But Quinlan, an English QC, said that the tournament’s disciplinary programme said that referees “may only give evidence of fact not opinion”. Referring to the conclusion of Peyper’s submission, he ruled: “The last sentence is inadmissible opinion evidence and as such I disregarded it.

“He gave evidence before me. Before he did so I explained to him the limits of the evidence I was able to hear (namely as to fact not opinion) which he readily understood and accepted.”

The two forwards denied the charge of foul play, and were questioned at length about the incident in which they cleared Lam off a ruck. Their sentence - harsher than most observers had expected, particularly in the case of Ford - has motivated their colleagues to perform to their utmost against the Wallabies, according to Josh Strauss, the back-row forward.

“We are all very disappointed for Ross and Jonny,” he said. “Being a close group of lads we know each other very well and these are two very determined guys.

“We feel it was tough on them. When I heard it myself, and I can only speak for myself, I was angry. It was more for them. I can imagine myself in their shoes and how I would feel if it was me.

“But personally that’s good for me. It motivates me. I want to put in a performance for them if I'm selected. I want to make them proud, because they have made all of us proud. We’ve achieved so much as a group together, and we’re not going to let anything stand in our way. As their friend, I feel it was quite a harsh decision.”

Even if Scotland are deprived of two of their best players for the game, Strauss is confident they can upset the odds and win. “You don't come into a competition thinking you can't win it. Anybody can be beaten. The feeling is we are going to win. The belief is that we will win.”