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Ban balls-up leaves Jacques du Plessis free to...

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Ban balls-up leaves Jacques du Plessis free to play in Top 14 knockout phase

What is the collective noun for a group of Du Plessises, anyway?

An administrative cock-up means Montpellier can field their full complement of four Du Plessises in the Top 14 play-off quarter-final against defending champions Racing 92.

The matchday 23 could feature Bismarck, and Jannie, and Willie, and Jacques – even though the latter du Plessis was, on Wednesday, handed a four-week ban after he was cited for striking La Rochelle’s Romain Sazy during the 40-37 defeat in April.

The problem: the Ligue National du Rugby (LNR), which runs the Top 14 competition, failed to include a simple five-word phrase in its official notification to Montpellier of the citing committee’s decision.

That phrase – exécution provisoire de la décision (provisional execution of the decision) – would have denied the club the right to appeal. But, it wasn’t included. So the club has that right. And the club has exercised it.

The LNR confirmed its error on Friday.

With an appeal now pending, du Plessis is free to play in the ‘barrage’ match against Racing 92 at the Altrad Stadium – a match Montpellier are strong favourites to win. Further, because the French rugby union (FFR) cannot convene until 15 days after the appeal letter is received, he could also feature in next week’s semi-final against Clermont in Marseille.

He could even play in the final in Paris on June 4 – because the earliest the FFR can convene to hear his appeal is… June 5.

It is the second time this one incident has embarrassed the LNR.

Referee Romain Poite sin-binned du Plessis. Under the league’s three-strikes rule, players receive an automatic one-match ban once they have received three yellow cards. This was his third.

He should not have been available for the final match of the regular season – a 27-26 win over Stade Francais, decided with the final kick of the game.

Du Plessis was not named in the original matchday 23. But he was a late addition to the squad and came on at halftime.

Stade filed a complaint to the LNR. But it ruled – as Montpellier had clearly worked out when they added his name to the teamsheet late-on – that because he was later cited, that automatic ban was on hold, pending the citing commissioner’s ruling.

No rules have been broken. The exact opposite, in fact – the rules have been followed to the letter. In so doing, they have been rendered useless by Montpellier’s lawyer-smart use of molecule-width hair-splitting technicality. And their spirit has been just ever so slightly tainted.

Ironically, had Stade’s complaint been upheld and the win awarded to them, they would have finished sixth. And that would mean a knockout round match this weekend against Montpellier. But that’s a moot point, now. 

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Ban balls-up leaves Jacques du Plessis free to play in Top 14 knockout phase