Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home Sport Rugby Six Nations

Welsh warn integrity is at stake over French farce

France 20 Wales 18

By Andrew Baldock

Wales are waiting to hear if any action will be taken on two fronts after claiming there was "evidence to suggest" wing George North had been bitten during Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against France.

Wales were beaten 20-18, conceding a try and 100th-minute conversion in a game that could now be investigated by Six Nations chiefs after a chaotic finale.

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley said the "integrity of the game had been brought into disrepute" after France replacement prop Uini Atonio went off for a head injury assessment, with starting tighthead Rabah Slimani then returning during a remarkable 20 minutes of second half stoppage time.

Slimani had earlier been replaced but the France team doctor insisted that Atonio needed an HIA, therefore allowing Slimani to go back on as France laid siege to Wales' line through a series of scrums.

Howley did not hold back in his assessment of what he felt took place.

"What happened in the last 10 minutes of that game shouldn't ever happen again on an international rugby field," he said.

"The process leading up to the change of the French tighthead, the way that occurred, we love our game too much to have those decisions. It is hugely disappointing.

"The process that occurred prior to him warming up before going back on, one of their (France's) coaches went outside the technical area, had a word with their doctor and within a minute of that, he went on and took their tighthead off.

"The evidence suggests that it's not in the integrity of our game.

"The referee (Englishman Wayne Barnes) is told an HIA needs to take place, and he trusts that information. It wasn't his fault in the last 10 minutes. He has listened to a medic."

Six Nations bosses look likely to probe the events, and France could face disciplinary action if anything is proven against them.

Howley added: "We will look over the whole footage. A lot of it is on microphone as well. It is pretty obvious what happened.

"There is a technical area, and you are not allowed outside that technical area. Someone has come outside and the doctor has gone on to the field at a break in play.

"That is outside the laws of the game."

Asked to confirm that Wales had seen an official leave the technical area, brief the doctor and then the doctor run on to the field without going on to treat anybody, Howley said: "Yes. And in between that you can hear Wayne Barnes ask him (Atonio) if he's okay, and the player says 'I've got a sore back, I'm okay' and then the doctor comes on and the player goes off.

"I don't know what can be done because it is about the trust between management and referee.

"There is evidence to suggest the integrity of the game has been brought into disrepute."

With regard to the North incident, any available video footage proved inconclusive. No on-pitch action was taken, but match citing commissioner John Montgomery has until 5pm today to decide whether any incident should be reported and a disciplinary hearing convened.

World Rugby's sanctions for biting start at a 12-week suspension for a low-end offence, rising to 24 weeks and above for top-end.

Reflecting on the incident, Howley said: "It's gone to the television match official.

"The evidence was inconclusive in terms of the images that were shown to the referees, and ultimately they've made a decision on that and it is absolutely fine.

"I am 100% behind that decision in terms of the pictures they saw.

"Obviously, there is evidence to suggest otherwise on George's arm. The evidence suggests there is a bite.

"The referee only had one angle. I haven't seen any other angles, so unfortunately it is inconclusive and you move on.

"I am sure you can ask George if you can have a look at his arm. There is evidence to suggest that there is a bite."

Belfast Telegraph

How to Complain

If you have a complaint about the editorial content of the Belfast Telegraph or Sunday Life then contact the Editor here. If you are not satisfied with the response provided then you can contact the Independent Press Standards Organisation here

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph