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Atonio banned after accepting tackle should have been a red card

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

France prop Uini Atonio has been banned following his citing for foul play during last Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations match in Dublin. The front-rower was yellow carded on 26 minutes for a high shot on Ireland’s Rob Herring, a decision that ignited controversy as many felt referee Wayne Barnes had got it wrong and should have instead brandished the red card.


Atonio was cited on Monday for the tackle and he has now received a three-game ban that can be reduced to two if he successfully completes tackle school. Successful completion would free him for selection in the final France match of the Six Nations, the March 18 game at home to Wales.

A statement read: “France prop Uini Atonio appeared before an independent judicial committee via video link having been cited for an act of foul play contrary to law 9.13. The independent judicial committee consisting of Judge Mike Mika (chair, New Zealand), Leon Lloyd (England) and Stefan Terblanche (South Africa) heard the case, considering all the available evidence and submissions from the player and his representatives.

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“The player admitted that he had committed an act of foul play worthy of a red card. Having reviewed all the evidence, the committee accepted the player’s admission that the tackle on Ireland No2 was foul play. His shoulder made contact with Ireland No2’s neck/face as described in the citing commissioner’s report and therefore reached the red card threshold.

“On that basis, the committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point for foul play resulting in contact with the head. This resulted in a starting point of a six-week suspension.


“Having acknowledged there were no aggravating factors and mitigating factors including the player’s immediate admission of guilt, his exemplary disciplinary record and genuine remorse, the committee reduced the six-week entry point by three weeks, resulting in a sanction of three weeks (to be served as the following given the player’s upcoming schedule):

  • February 26 – France vs Scotland;
  • March 11 – England v France;
  • March 18 – France v Wales.

“The player applied to take part in the coaching intervention programme to substitute the final match of his sanction for a coaching intervention, which was granted by the committee. The programme is aimed at modifying specific techniques and technical issues that contributed to the foul play. The player has the right of appeal within the working days of the issuing of the full written decision.”


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Joseph 494 days ago

Barnes didn't "get it wrong". He deliberately reduced the severity to yellow in order to avoid himself being pilloried for ruining the game between the two top teams, which it undoubtedly would have done. So let's not minimise his wilful tort by calling it a "mistake" - it was a perversion of rugby justice. Rassie was right - this clown should retire and go spend time with his wife. And have someone go to Wales and persuade Nigel to come back for at least a couple of seasons.

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