Robinson could receive ban for referee outburst

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England's head coach Andy Robinson faces a lengthy touchline ban and a hefty fine following his angry outburst over the referee Jonathan Kaplan's handling of last Sunday's Six Nations defeat to Ireland.

England's head coach Andy Robinson faces a lengthy touchline ban and a hefty fine following his angry outburst over the referee Jonathan Kaplan's handling of last Sunday's Six Nations defeat to Ireland.

Robinson was harshly critical of two of the South African official's decisions when England players appeared to have scored tries, suggesting that Kaplan should have referred the two incidents to the television match official. His post-match comments were fairly strong, but yesterday Robinson went a lot further when he was quoted as saying: "I think only one side was refereed."

The International Rugby Board is said to be seething over the issue. Last night a spokesman said: "There is a code of conduct in place. The national unions are fully aware of that." The IRB insisted that responsibility for punitive action rests with the national union, in this case the Rugby Football Union, and the spokesman added: "We take all breaches of the code of conduct very seriously and we expect the national union to look at that and take action."

Recently the Scotland coach Matt Williams was highly critical of a match official, but he issued a fulsome apology through the Scottish Rugby Union and the matter was dropped. But Robinson has stated he wants to lodge a formal complaint about Kaplan with the IRB, so an apology looks out of the question.

After arriving back in Cape Town yesterday Kaplan defended himself. "On a personal level, I am very disappointed with Robinson's remarks," he said. "I don't feel it is going anywhere when a coach publicly criticises a referee. There were two matters which he believes were critical and I am quite certain I made the correct decision in both of them.

"The one incident where there was an offside [for Mark Cueto's disallowed try], I can't see any conclusive evidence to disprove my decision. And on the second occasion [when Josh Lewsey claimed to have grounded the ball], where there was doubt if a try was scored, I was in a perfect position to adjudicate.

"I didn't need to use the television referee from where I was and even if I had reason to, the scrum maul was repelled back into the field of play and the ball became unplayable, so technically I was spot on." Kaplan awarded a five-metre scrum to Ireland instead of the try or an attacking scrum to England.

"Even if they ask why I didn't refer it, Hugh Watkins [the video referee] has said that with the referral he wouldn't have given it" he continued.

"As I understand it, Andy is a reasonable coach and it is out of character for him to do something like this. I wish him well for the rest of his Six Nations campaign. But I have watched the footage again and I would have been the first one to put up my hand and admit I had made a mistake if it was so. If there is evidence, then perhaps they should give me evidence of my mistakes and I will gladly admit them."

Twickenham has taken a strong line recently when dealing with coaches who are critical of match officials - last month Northampton's Budge Pountney was fined £2,000 and given a six-week touchline ban, with two of those weeks suspended. Last year Rod Kafer, then coach of Saracens, was suspended from the touchline for six weeks, while Gloucester's Dean Ryan received a £2,000 fine and a four-week ban in 2001 when he was in charge of Bristol.

With Robinson being a national coach, and with his comments having been heard globally, there is likely to be pressure on the RFU to make an example of him.

Ireland's centre Shane Horgan suffered a minor fracture at the base of a thumb against England and has been ruled out of their vital match against France in Dublin on 12 March.

However, Gordon D'Arcy looks certain to return for Leinster this weekend, so if he makes it through 80 minutes without a recurrence of his hamstring injury or any other mishap, Ireland may be able to field their first choice threequarter pairing of D'Arcy and his Leinster colleague Brian O'Driscoll against the French.

Another centre of attention, Wales' Gavin Henson, signed a four-year deal with the Celtic League leaders the Neath-Swansea Ospreys yesterday. The 23-year-old centre will stay with the regional side until the end of the 2008-09 season, ending interest from English clubs.