A few weeks ago I talked about the rampant inconsistency of citing commissions in rugby. I’m afraid it has happened again.
After the Wales-Italy match two Italian players were cited. One was a surprise to me. Mauro Bergamasco apparently attempted to gouge Lee Byrne’s eye out during a confrontation after the game. I didn’t see this on TV at all, but it must have happened because the citing commissioners threw the book at him. Bergamasco got a 13-week ban, which would apparently have been even longer had he not decided to plead guilty. Quite right too. Gouging someone’s eye out is a serious offense that has no place on a rugby field.
The other cited player was Carlo Del Fava. Everyone knew about this. He had kneed Stephen Jones in the head when Jones was lying prone on the ground after being tackled. This was on TV. It was shown on replay on the big screens at the stadium, and witnessed by millions of people watching the BBC coverage. Jones took a long time to get up afterwards, and had to be checked for concussion before he was allowed to continue playing. The fact that it happened was so incontrovertible that the Italian coach, Nick Mallett, didn’t bother selecting Del Fava for the next round of the tournament. Everyone expected him to be banned.
And yet the citing commissioners found him “not guilty”.
Clearly this cannot be what American judges call a “finding of fact”. No way can you pretend that Del Fava didn’t knee Jones in the head. So it must be what they call a “finding of law”. That is, Del Fava is “not guilty” in the same way that Mike Tyson is “not guilty” of foul play for punching people in a boxing ring. Apparently the citing commissioners believe that kneeing opposition players in the head when they are lying defenseless on the ground is an acceptable part of the game and therefore cannot be construed as “foul play”.
Or maybe it was Del Fava’s birthday.
OK, maybe they did have a better reason, but if they did I haven’t seen an explanation. And because these bizarre verdicts happen so often one is tempted to expect the worst. You see, Bergamasco plays his club rugby in France, but Del Fava plays for an Irish club. The citing commissioners for this hearing were taken from the English and Irish Unions. I have this awful feeling that if there had been a Frenchman on the panel then Bergamasco would have been found “not guilty” as well.