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'Ban him for 8-12 months. See how employable he is then': Matthieu Acebes red sparks fury

By Ned Lester
Mathieu Acebes talks to referee Pierre Baptiste Nuchy. Photo by GAIZKA IROZ/AFP via Getty Images

Perpignan captain Matthieu Acebes committed perhaps the most blatantly violent act recent rugby has seen in the weekend’s Top 14 match against La Rochelle.

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The winger received a red card and fans are calling for a suspension that would end any participation in rugby that Acebes might have enjoyed in 2023.

France midfielder Jonathan Danty was the victim of Acebes’ ill temper, the La Rochelle star was being held on the ground by Perpignan centre Afusipa Taumoepeau in a minor off-ball scuffle when Acebes noticed the altercation and ran in from the nearby ruck, diving headfirst and making direct contact with Danty’s cheekbone area. The Perpignan captain’s elbow can also be seen hitting Danty’s upper chest.

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Danty reeled away after Acebes was dragged out of the altercation by a La Rochelle player. Taumoepeau’s attitude quickly turned from anger to concern as he witnessed the severity of the contact up close.

Perpignan released the following statement the day following the incident.

“The Club has just been informed of the threats and insults received by Mathieu Acebes, following his red card during the last match. This gesture, which the player regrets infinitely, will be treated in due time by the disciplinary committee of the LNR and Mathieu will bear the consequences. Moreover, the Club cannot accept or tolerate threats and messages of hatred being uttered against one of its players or their family. The Club appeals to your vigilance and would like to remind you that respect is an essential value of our sport.”

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Shortly after the match, Acebes posted an apology to Instagram: “I am a great fan of our sport, I have always defended it and its values… I play with passion, unfortunately this weekend I lost control of my emotions, @jo_danty is a player I respect a lot and I strongly regret my move and I apologised immediately after the game. I will face the consequences of this unfortunate move. Judging me on my values and integrity in my privacy on this single gesture is regrettable. I don’t want to give that bad image. Will continue to work hard for the club. It’s only sport. Life goes on Always forward. We will never die.”

In a since-deleted reply, Danty responded: “You do not regret your gesture and I do not excuse it. It was premeditated. Two minutes before you had warned me that you would take care of me, before headbutting me when I was talking on the ground with one of your teammates. Your apologies are intended for the disciplinary committee. You do not regret your gesture and I do not excuse it.”

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