The final day of the 2017 RBS 6 Nations saw three cracking games and whilst the dust has settled on the on-field activity the repercussions of the final weekend continue.
Scotland gave a winning send off to super coach Vern Cotter after a 29-0 whitewash of Italy. In doing so they held on to their 5th place in the World Rugby Rankings and in Stuart Hogg had the Player of the Championship for the second year running.
Wales lost to France after conceding a last minute try in the 99th minute of their match in Paris – more of which below – and Ireland denied championship winners England a second consecutive Grand Slam in a rousing performance before their home fans, adding to the reasons to celebrate in Dublin over the St. Patrick’s day weekend.
In the end Ireland, France and Scotland finished equal on points with three wins and 2 bonus points each, their final positions being decided on points difference despite recent changes to the 6 Nations’ rules.
Overall the Championship was another success with some outstanding rugby played over the course of 6 weeks and concerns as to the policing of the new regulations concerning reckless and accidental tackles proving to be unfounded.
Perhaps the most exciting of all of the games during the tournament was that between France and Wales on the final weekend which included 100 minutes of rugby, 3 penalties converted from the halfway line, yellow cards, allegations of a bite and a last minute match winning try to boot.
However, perhaps the most controversial moment of the match took place in the first minute of injury time when French tight head prop Rabah Slamini, who had already been substituted for tactical reasons, returned to replace Uini Antonio who required a head injury assessment.
Slamini, widely considered to be the better scrummager, returned to the match during a key period of play when France were putting the Welsh scrum under intense pressure on their own goal-line.
At the time, and under intense scrutiny, referee Wayne Barnes questioned the French team doctor about Antonio’s injury and who confirmed to Barnes that Antonio needed a head injury assessment. As Slamini had been replaced for tactical reasons, rather than injury, he was allowed to return to the game. Whilst much criticism has been made of Barnes’s decision it is difficult to see what choice he had when provided with the opinion of a medical expert.
In the end the French scrum’s dominance saw a string of penalties awarded in their favour before they finally went over for the match winning try in the 99th minute.
After the match concluded both sides were disgruntled with the outcome with various comments and accusations made.
Last week Yoann Maestri was fined €30,000 (with €15,000 suspended for one year) by the Independent Disciplinary Committee for comments he made about the match officials, particularly Barnes, during his post-match interview.
And what of the controversial substitution?
At the time Welsh interim coach Rob Howley suggested that the “integrity of the game [had] been brought into disrepute”.
Today it was announced that the tournament’s Untoward Incident Review Group would review the matter and the outcome will no doubt be waited for with some interest by Welsh supporters.