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'Wayne wasn't having it... he looked me dead in the eyes'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Stade Francais skipper Tala Gray has relived the dramatic moment when he tried to appease Wayne Barnes with a light-hearted quip after the furious referee had sent off Tolu Latu, the Parisian club’s hooker, during last Sunday’s nerve-shredding Heineken Champions Cup pool win over Connacht. 


The French side needed a bonus point victory with a winning margin of six points to edge out Cardiff from the qualification race for the round of 16 section of the tournament and they eventually achieved this with the game’s final kick despite playing the closing 34 minutes with just 14 players after Latu’s sending-off.

The 28-year-old, 19-cap Wallabies player was shown a first yellow card when he committed an act of foul play by dangerously clearing out the Connacht hooker Shane Delahunt at a 34th-minute ruck, and he was then banished from the match for directing abusive language at Barnes after he was penalised when defending at an early second-half ruck.

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Tala Gray guests on the latest Le Rugby Show Podcast
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Tala Gray guests on the latest Le Rugby Show Podcast

Latu was subsequently banned for one match and while his comments weren’t directly picked up by the ref mic that Barnes was wearing at the time, the aftermath was audible on live TV when the official had Stade skipper Gray speak with him once the red card had been shown.   

“I penalised him for going off his feet. That is my decision. He has looked at me and said, ‘F***ing hell’,” explained Barnes to the Stade captain, who tongue-in-cheek replied: ‘You spoke French. Maybe he didn’t understand that properly’. Barnes was having none of that, ending the discussion by saying: “Stop. He said, ‘I got the f***ing ball’. Very clearly. Very much at me. Yellow card, red’.”


Gray has now recounted the incident during an appearance on this week’s Le French Rugby Podcast in the company of ex-Scotland international Johnnie Beattie. “I was on the other side of the field when that all unfolded, so I was still trying to catch my breath running over because I could see him [Barnes] blow his whistle and then I saw him blow his whistle again and I saw the red card come out and I was like, ‘Oh no, what is happening here?’


“I’m thinking, ‘We have got a red card, I need to go and see what is happening’. As I am dragging over, Wayne has got this serious look on his face as he explained himself. I’m sure you have all heard what he said. I’m like, ‘What do I say here?’

“Because he has already sent him [Latu] off I was trying to make light of the situation and I just said, ‘Mate, are you speaking French?’ He wasn’t having it. He looked me dead in the eyes and I’m like, ‘Yeah, he is pretty serious’.”

As dramatic as the action was in the aftermath of the red card, winning a match while being reduced to 14 players for a long period of time wasn’t unusual for Stade. “We knew we were in there with 14 guys and we did it once already this season,” continued Gray. 

“To be fair we have done it three times since I have been at Stade where we have had a red card for over half the game and the boys have come out on top, so we are not a stranger to something like that and we are just fortunate the results went our way.” 



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