France's Maestri faces misconduct charge
NEWS: France vice-captain Yoann Maestri was left facing a misconduct charge Friday in the latest disciplinary incident to arise out of last week's hugely controversial Six Nations match against Wales.
Maestri is alleged to have criticised English referee Wayne Barnes after the end of an extraordinary match, featuring 20 minutes of extra time, with the Toulouse lock reportedly saying: "Anglo-Saxon referees always talk about fair play, but the reality is that they think we [the French] are cheats."
A Six Nations statement issued Friday said: "Following an investigation, Six Nations Rugby has commenced a misconduct complaint against France vice-captain, Yoann Maestri, following comments made by him to representatives of the media about the referee.
"A disciplinary hearing will now be convened by the chair of the Six Nations disciplinary panel, Professor Lorne Crerar."
Meanwhile, France wing Virimi Vakatawa was cleared to resume playing immediately, having been cited after receiving a yellow card during 'Les Bleus' 20-18 win.
Vakatawa was sin-binned following a deliberate knock-on, and then warned by the match citing commissioner for a high tackle.
But officials decided he had received sufficient punishment already, the Six Nations statement adding: "The disciplinary committee concluded that although the player had been guilty of both acts of foul play, no further sanction was necessary. The player is able to resume playing immediately."
However, the Six Nations have yet to make a decision on arguably the most contentious incident of the match - the dispute over whether France prop Uini Atonio had indeed suffered a genuine head injury that required him to be replaced.
"Six Nations Rugby is continuing its investigation into replacements made in the latter stages of the same match," Friday's statement said.
With France 13-18 behind and camped on the Welsh line, a series of scrums took place late in the match as they went in search of an equalising try.
In the midst of all this, Atonio was replaced, despite telling Barnes he was not injured but his back was hurting, by preferred tighthead prop Rabah Slimani, known for his devastating scrummaging power.
France coach Guy Noves insisted it was a genuine call by his medics for a head injury, which would leave Barnes with no choice but to allow France to bring back the previously substituted Slimani under rules governing the treatment of suspected concussion.
But Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley said there was "evidence to suggest that the integrity of the game has been brought into disrepute" by France fabricating the head injury call.
France eventually got the try they wanted in the 100th minute, with the ensuing successful conversion securing a win.
Monday saw the Six Nations announce that no action would be taken following an allegation from Wales wing George North he had been bitten during the match, saying they had been unable to conclude that any individual player had committed foul play.
France's last-gasp score gave them a victory which saw them finish third in the Championship, with Wales fifth.