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EPCR statement: Bundee Aki verbal attack on referee Mathieu Raynal

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Ireland midfielder Bundee Aki can rest easy ahead of the upcoming Guinness Six Nations after learning that his verbal altercation with French referee Mathieu Raynal last Saturday in Galway after Connacht lost to Leicester only merited a citing commissioner warning rather than a citing and a potential ban.  

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Northampton boss Chris Boyd was suspended just last Thursday for two games by the RFU while Jersey coach Harvey Biljon was banned for one after their recent criticisms of referees following matches in England. But there will be no EPCR suspension for Aki after he lost his cool. 

Aki was left furious after Raynal deemed good a last-gasp match-winning try by Leicester’s Hosea Saumaki last weekend and he confronted the official on the pitch following the full-time whistle. “That is not fair. That’s not right. That is not fair,” he said in an argument that could be heard on live TV via the mic the referee was wearing. 

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Raynal replied to Aki: “What is not fair?”

“You knew it was on the line [the Leicester player’s foot], you can see it. You can see it,” retorted Aki. “I don’t want another apology. We have had too many apologies in our game.”

Raynal, though, had the last say, reprimanding Aki by insisting: “It is not on the line, you will apologise. Thank you.” The French official was ultimately proven correct that Aki would be the one doing the apologies as the Connacht player soon posted his mea culpa to Twitter. “Like to apologise about my action towards the referee and officials, kids who were watching,” he wrote. 

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“Absolutely not needed in this game. Emotions were high and that is certainly not an excuse for my actions. Definitely will take the loss on the chin and will be looking at myself.”

With a Six Nations campaign on the horizon with Ireland, a squad he was confirmed in this Wednesday, Aki would have hoped that his swift apology following his unwarranted outburst was enough to ward off the attention of the match citing commissioner amid a climate where the rugby authorities have been clamping down on criticisms of referees.

The apology wasn’t enough to put Aki completely in the clear as the match citing commissioner had indeed noted the incident. However, rather than feel it was an issue that merited a citing and a follow-up disciplinary hearing, the EPCR instead handed the midfielder a warning.   

“The Connacht centre, Bundee Aki, has been issued with a citing commissioner warning arising from his club’s Heineken Champions Cup round the match against Leicester,” read a statement. “The warning was for an act of dissent towards the match referee, Mathieu Raynal (France), in contravention of law 9.28. The match citing commissioner was Jeff Mark (Wales).

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“Players who accumulate three citing commissioner warnings, or who are shown three yellow cards for foul play offences, or a combination of both, during the pool stages and knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and the EPCR Challenge Cup, will be required to attend a disciplinary hearing.”

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