French reprimanded over prop substitution
UPDATE: The French Rugby Federation (FFR) has been reprimanded over the controversial substitution of prop Uini Atonio in the match with Wales on March 18, Six Nations Rugby said Friday.
However, a disciplinary panel ruled there was no clear evidence that France had sought to gain a competitive edge by the move in the dying minutes of the game.
The Untoward Incident Review Group (UIRG Group) report - an independent panel headed by Lorne Crerar - whilst criticising the French coaching staff for 'some miscommunication', judged there was no intention in replacing Atonio to gain an advantage over their opponents.
The match in Paris ended in a 20-18 win for France, with referee Wayne Barnes allowing an extraordinary 20 minutes of added-on time at the end.
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 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 under the head injury assessment (HIA) procedure, 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
"The UIRG concluded that the FFR had not complied with HIA protocol and/or the relevant laws of the game, and to this effect a letter of reprimand has been issued by Six Nations Rugby," read the statement from the Six Nations organisers.
"Following detailed review of the available evidence it was established that once the HIA protocol had been initiated and the player had entered the medical room, the FFR conducted the process appropriately although there was some miscommunication from the French team.
"There was no clear evidence that there was any intent to obtain a competitive advantage in the match with regards to the FFR's failures in complying with the HIA protocol and/or laws of the game."