Six Nations 2015: Crackdown on rugby's simulation to stop ‘Hollywood’ antics

Rugby chiefs to punish acts like feigning injury and goading opponents as incidents increase

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The Independent Online

Six Nations players face new sanctions aimed at stamping out “Hollywood” behaviour – rugby’s version of simulation in football – in a crackdown by disciplinary chiefs.

Officials at Six Nations matches, kicking off with Wales versus England in Cardiff on Friday, have been encouraged to take retrospective action by issuing citing commissioner warnings (CCWs) against players who feign or exaggerate foul play. The CCWs, which were introduced to Test rugby this season, carry the same disciplinary weight as a sin-bin  yellow card and any player accumulating three yellows and/or CCWs will be called to a disciplinary hearing. Players who pat opponents sarcastically on the head will be liable to the same punishment.

Video clips of incidents showing various degrees of simulation, from the serious to the laughable, were shown to 90 citing and judicial officers yesterday at the annual Six Nations disciplinary conference in London.

One showed Toulouse’s France wing Yoann Huget collapsing to the ground holding his face, and staying down, after an innocuous push in the chest by Bath’s Horacio Agulla in a European Cup match two weeks ago. Huget received an official warning from European Professional Club Rugby for “an act contrary to good sportsmanship”.

Another incident pinpointed Toulon’s world-renowned South Africa wing Bryan Habana taking a dive after a bump by Saracens’ Owen Farrell in last season’s Heineken Cup final. It highlighted a grey area for rugby. Habana issued a public apology afterwards, but despite referee Alain Rolland seeing the incident at the time, the player was not punished and the penalty awarded to Toulon for Farrell’s challenge was not reversed.

No new guidance has been issued to referees by the game’s global governing body, World Rugby, who appear content for the time being for the off-field disciplinary system to clear up any “Hollywood” mess. A referee who identifies a dive in real time is likely to issue a verbal warning or a penalty – rather than send the player to the bin – under Law 10.4(m): “A player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship in the playing enclosure.”

Such incidents remain rare in rugby but they run contrary to the sport’s self-declared core values of respect, sportsmanship and discipline.

Meanwhile, Six Nations coaches are under scrutiny too, with Wales boss Warren Gatland understood to have received a written warning over comments made about French referee Pascal Gauzere after the 17-13 win over Fiji in Cardiff in November.