Scotland v Argentina: Richie Gray handed a three-match ban

Independent disciplinary panel rules that second-row made contact with the head and acted recklessly with a high degree of danger

Richie Gray's return has been one of the big success stories for Scotland this Autumn. Image: © Craig Watson -
Richie Gray's return has been one of the big success stories for Scotland this Autumn. Image: © Craig Watson -

SCOTLAND second-row Richie Gray has been handed a three-match ban by an independent disciplinary panel for dangerous play in a ruck or maul during last Sunday’s loss to New Zealand meaning, he will miss Saturday’s final Autumn Test Series match against Argentina at Murrayfield.

The 33-year-old denied that he had committed an act of foul play worthy of a red card. However, having reviewed all the available evidence, including multiple broadcast angles and submissions from the player and his representative, the panel deemed that on the balance of probabilities there was foul play in that the player had led with his elbow into the tackle area.

Applying World Rugby’s Head Contact Process, the panel determined that there was contact with the head and that the player had acted recklessly with a high degree of danger.

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Having applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point for foul play resulting in contact with the head of a six-match suspension, the panel took into into account mitigating factors, including the Gray’s previous disciplinary record and reduced the sanction by half.

The independent disciplinary committee was chaired by Shao-ing Wang (Singapore), joined by former international Stefan Terblanche (South Africa) and former international referee Juan-Pablo Spirandelli (Argentina).

Gray will also miss Glasgow Warriors’ URC matches against Leinster on 26th November and Zebre on 3rd December. However, he can apply to take part in a Coaching Intervention Programme aimed at modifying specific techniques and technical issues that contributed to the foul play to earn a one-week reduction in the sanction.

Gray’s place in Scotland’s starting fifteen on Sunday is likely to be taken by younger brother Jonny, with Edinburgh’s Glen Young coming onto the bench, but uncapped Saracens second-row Callum Hunter-Hill could be a surprise selection having been called into Scotland’s training squad for the first time earlier this week. Sam Skinner and Scott Cummings are both unavailable due to injury.

The player has the right of appeal within 48 hours of the issuing of the full written decision.

The Scotland team to face Argentina will be announced tomorrow afternoon, with Gregor Townsend’s side looking to revenge last summer’s 2-1 series defeat to the Pumas. A victory would also mean that Scotland finish the Autumn with a 50 percent winning record and some valuable momentum heading into the Six Nations in the New Year.

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About David Barnes 3911 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Embarrassing for the SRU having gone on the record pre tribunal saying that Gray would be exonerated. There needs to be a process to deal with foul play not seen by the match officials but the current iteration is flawed.

  2. now someone can explain this to me

    SA back row gets 6 wks – low range -reduced to 3 for a flying head butt
    France scrum half mistimes a tackle and takes player out in the air gets 8 wks reduced to 4 – mid-range because he made contact with the head according to the disc panel

    Dupont admitted foul play, Du Toit denied it

  3. Seems to be an incident at just over 70mins on the match clock where Gray enters a ruck.Its impossible to tell from that if anything untoward occurred so I presume the panel got other angles.
    All their decisions are “on the balnce of probabities” surely so its very odd they mentioned that-or was it because there is no more video footage and they are just making an educated guess (which would be shocking)?

    • Yes 70:35 or so … Barrett is on the ground on the right of the ruck and Gray comes in with what looks from the far side like a fairly innocuous clear out, which doesn’t move Barrett at all. Barrett can then be seen getting attention and you can see blood. He then speaks to the referee and claims to have been punched. Gray is egging people on just before the incident, so is obviously fired up, but looks more to be an accident to me. Plus surely the video ref would have reviewed and found nothing as there is not even any review with the ref. He has all the angles, so why would the panel have any more info. Seems to me a stich up based on believing Barrett’s claim and that is borne out by the ‘balance of probabilities’ rubbish. Surely such punishments can only be dished out based on evidence.
      SRU should have appealed. Richie must be seriously annoyed as he pled innocent.

  4. @septic+9 – I am sorry to be a Pedant about this, [or perhaps not] however if as is the accepted case:
    “Where the actions of someone participating in a match are both outside the playing rules and the playing culture of the sport, they may be exposed to criminal liability, depending on the level of violence and the injuries inflicted”.
    You can’t in my humble opinion suggest an actual or possibly potential assault [that is the allegation when you boil it down] and fail to use the accepted yardstick of criminal rather than civil law, arguably it is Hunting with the Fox whilst chasing with the Hounds.
    And that brings about another significant factor of these Kangaroo Courts, argue your case, in particular against an on field decision and you obviously do not achieve anything other than a heavier penalty. There are many comments, including yours, pointing out the flaws in the ‘supposed’ system: if a system is flawed it should be exposed.
    In any other situation an argument for this judgement [sic] to be overturned on the basis of an Argentinian involved in rugby [whether biased or not that is immaterial] sitting on a panel that clearly has an influence on a fixture within days is at the very least incompetent, but surely calls into question the findings even if the Argentinian Referee is the paragon of virtue you give him the credit of being. However as we have seen in other Reviews argue your case and its even worse of a penalty.
    Sorry I’m not one for accepting situations that are clearly wrong, bullying or coercive and failing to criticise or stand up for yourself and just rolling over isn’t typical in our DNA, at least not in mine.

    • George, there are many flaws in the WR disc process. Many.
      But this is not criminal law. As I posted already apply criminal law standards – beyond reasonable doubt – and precious few players would be sanctioned. As the discussions on many cases shows (on here and elsewhere) there is all too often reasonable doubt. Like many ref decisions there is a degree of subjectivity. Its the nature of the beast.

      BTW, it was an obvious assault, Gray would be subject to the criminal law. Ask Duncan Fergusson.
      I think we agree that WR are a shambles, but lets attack the obvious problems – like the inevitable increased sanction if you dare to appeal* rather than things which aren’t

      *which isn’t consistently applied, depends who you are – this is a real case of discrimination

      • I’m sorry I can’t find any agreement with your position, civil versus criminal, in some respects it is a diversion. IF there is a clear collision to the head there isn’t any conjecture, even if the contact is minimal, so I question your suggestion that too many would get away with Red Card offences. This is an incident where there appears to be no proof of contact to a head, however they either think there might have been, or could have been under some circumstances, what sort of justice is that?
        Would you be satisfied if someone fined you £500 because you’re in a really fast sports car accelerate away from the traffic lights but subsequently kept to the speed limit but Police said that they thought there was a chance that you would break the speed limit at some point!
        That analogy is so far off the mark for the simple reason to suggest something might or even could have happened without any evidence other than guesswork is just so far off natural justice it beggars belief.

    • George, getting silly now and getting into consprarcy theories. You do know know that there is no evidence. The panel will likely have video angles we have not seen. I would very muck like to see the panel findings published in full – and perhaps any video angles which are helpful
      The disc process decision making is the same as civil law. Not a distraction, a fact. Many cases that come up are debatable in terms of whether contact was with head, slipped on to the head, was shoulder etc – not every one is clear.
      Rugby has an existential crisis in terms of concussion and its long term effect. Head in the sand and WR influenced by frankly fraudsters posing as experts. It does need to take a hard line on head contact and that will mean some cases where people feel hard done by. The alternative is more will get away with head hits, coaches will continue to coach the high hot to target the ball (and these will go wrong too often), more concussive injuries and as I say an existential threat to rugby.

      • It is a pity we seem to agree on WR ineptitude and many other matters. If there are video angles they have seen they wouldn’t offer up the ‘probability’ factor in my opinion anyway.
        If my point of view is silly, at least I’ve put my name to it, and at the end of the day we will both be supporting the same team on Saturday: fingers crossed.

  5. Septic I’d agree that we shouldn’t impugn the Argentina members integrity but the optics are terrible. It’s downright amateur stuff to ensure that all members are seen to be completely neutral. Even more so when the rest of the process has been so lacking in fairness and objectivity.

  6. The powers that be must be seen to be doing something in the current climate. But it’s a flawed process. In any game at any level you could pick out half a dozen such incidents. They seem to cherry pick incidents almost at random. And making grown men stand on the naughty step and attend these demeaning courses is just insulting. Wiser heads need to reexamine the whole procedure. Unfortunately I’m not convinced there are any wise heads within the IRB.

    • these course are indeed a nonsense. Probably an hour ticking multiple choice on a laptop
      The way to reduce high hits etc is to increase sanctions, not reduce them further – which is the effect of the course.

  7. Anyway…why were the SRU confident that Gray would be found innocent and free to play Argentina? Those headlines amazed me. The fact that he was cited for contravention of a specific law related to entering a ruck meant it was just a questionnaire how.lkn the ban would be. Naive to think he would “get off” with it. Contraventions by the ABs not being cited is irrelevant. Two wrongs don’t make the proverbial right.

    • It’s relevant because it perfectly illustrates how utterly tinpit the whole process is. Either all serious or violent offences are dealt with consistently or the process looks from the outside like a corrupt and biased one. Simply cherry picking offences is ludicrous. This isn’t a new phenemenon either. For as long as anyone can remember certain nations have gotten away with on field cheating and assaults whilst others find their players being demonised and banned for relatively innocuous offences. Our cousins in Rugby League are lightyears ahead when it comes to the standards of refs and impartiality.

  8. One assumes that in a non criminal tribunal the standard of proof is that on the balance of probabilities an offence has occured as opposed to a criminal court where the standard is beyond reasonable doubt. In this case it means they have to be satisfied at anything over 50% is enough to find charge proved .

  9. As usual little information, they never seem to say who was on the panel, they never seem to accept any mitigation of any sort, Kangaroo Court I call them and frankly there is no element of discussion with them. As I said I wonder who was on the panel, what experience they have had and who was the Citing officer, they seem to make it as difficult as possible to find out those questions.
    I don’t know why they bother with the charade.

    • Hi George,

      In fairness, the panel members were named. I have added them into the article.

      The independent Disciplinary Committee chaired by Shao-ing Wang (Singapore), joined by former international Stefan Terblanche (South Africa) and former international referee Juan-Pablo Spirandelli (Argentina),


      • Thanks, but I was suggesting the lack of ‘easy to find’ information at World Rugby was my gripe: but it doesn’t matter what anyone says at these hearings, why bother turning up, as for ‘the balance of probabilities’ since when has that been a yard-stick of guilt?

      • balance of probabilities is the yardstick in civil law. Criminal law uses beyond reasonable doubt.
        If we used the latter I’m afraid we would see very few found guilty.

        This is the least of the problems with the WR disc system

    • According to Social Media (yep I know!!) One of the panel was Argentinian…. genuinely find it astonishing that all the acts of foul play by ABs that were ignored. Did Gray’s ‘red card offence’ lead to an HIA if it was as stated forceful contact to the head??

      • Only World Rugby could appoint an Argentinian, what a shower, they would probably appoint Inspector Clauseau to investigate the corruption alleged at the French World cup organisation.

      • I’m not going to question the Argentinian Panel member’s integrity, but appointing him was not a good look. It is the act of an incompetent organisation

        WR is not fit for purpose

    • ‘On the balance of probabilities’ is very different to ‘conclusively’. Makes you wonder about just how much objectivity and consistency is applied to these scenarios.


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