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France v Wales controversy: Q&A

Wales were angered that France were able to bring back their best scrummager in stoppage time.

RUGBY UNION 20/03/17 11:26
France v Wales controversy: Q&A

Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations game between France and Wales in Paris ended with 20 minutes of stoppage time and controversy surrounding the replacing of Les Bleus prop Uini Atonio.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at the issues.

What happened at Stade de France?

Rabah Slimani controversially returned to the field (David Davies/PA)
Rabah Slimani controversially returned to the field (David Davies/PA)

France replacement prop Uini Atonio was taken off for a head injury assessment and replaced by Rabah Slimani, who had earlier been substituted for tactical reasons. Wales’ view was the HIA process had apparently been used as a method of getting superior scrummager Slimani back on as France pursuid a winning try, which they duly scored. Wales’ interim head coach Rob Howley claimed that a member of France’s coaching team ran outside the designated technical area, which is not allowed, and spoke to Les Bleus’ team doctor, who then went on to the pitch and told referee Wayne Barnes that Atonio needed an HIA. Just before that Barnes asked Atonio if he was injured, and the player said he had a sore back but could play on.

What is a head injury assessment?

Welsh players complained to referee Wayne Barnes at the Stade de France (David Davies/PA)
Welsh players complained to referee Wayne Barnes at the Stade de France (David Davies/PA)

World Rugby’s HIA procedure means that a player can be removed for an off-field assessment during a game if signs or symptoms of concussion are unclear. The HIA does not diagnose concussion, it identifies a suspected concussion, with a player undergoing a series of cognitive, balance and memory tests to ascertain whether they are fit to continue. If a player is suspected of concussion after an assessment, supported by the HIA, they are removed permanently from the match.

Can a substituted player rejoin the match?

France's winning try came 20 minutes into stoppage time (David Davies/PA)
France’s winning try came 20 minutes into stoppage time (David Davies/PA)

If a player is substituted, as was the case with Slimani after 55 minutes, they may only return to the field of play in one of four instances – replacing an injured front-row player, replacing a player with a blood injury, replacing a player undertaking a head injury assessment, replacing a player who has been injured as a result of foul play.

What did Wales boss Rob Howley say about the change of prop?

The decision angered Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley (Joe Giddens/PA)
The decision angered Wales’ interim head coach Rob Howley (Joe Giddens/PA)

“The process leading up to the change of the French tighthead, the way that occurred, we love our game too much to have those decisions. It’s hugely disappointing. I just question the integrity of the decision that was made. There is evidence to suggest the integrity of the game has been brought into disrepute.”

What did France head coach Guy Noves say about the change of prop?

France coach Guy Noves denied any wrongdoing (Adam Davy/PA)
France coach Guy Noves denied any wrongdoing (Adam Davy/PA)

“I was told that Uini Atonio was injured, so I took my responsibilities and changed the player. The Welsh players also changed players during the stoppages of play. As with all the matches, I have to take stock of the health of the players with my medical staff.”

What happens now?

There is now likely to be a lengthy investigation (David Davies/PA)
There is now likely to be a lengthy investigation (David Davies/PA)

Six Nations Rugby announced on Sunday that it is investigating the circumstances surrounding the HIA during stoppage time. It is possible that a misconduct charge could be laid. If that happens and any case is proven, then the French Rugby Federation can expect to face severe sanctions.

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