WP Nel cited for allegedly striking an opponent on the head

Prop could miss a number of crucial games for Edinburgh in the European Challenge Cup and United Rugby Championship if found guilty

WP Nel. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
WP Nel is back in Edinburgh's starting front row to face Castres. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

EDINBURGH prop WP Nel will face a disciplinary hearing tomorrow [Wednesday] after being cited for an incident which occurred during Friday night’s European Challenge Cup victory over Pau at the DAM Health Stadium. 

It is alleged that Nel struck the head of opposite number Téo Bordenave in a dangerous manner in the 42nd minute of the match in contravention of Law 9.12.

Simon Thomas (Wales), chair, Donal Courtney (Ireland) and Martyn Wood (England) have been appointed as the independent Disciplinary Committee for the hearing which will take place by video conference. The complaint was made by the match Citing Commissioner, Dana Teagarden (Germany).


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Law 9.12 states that “a player must not punch or strike with hand, arm, elbow or shoulder”. Under World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 9.12 carries a low entry point of a two week suspension, a mid-range entry pointy of six weeks, and a top end 10 to 52 weeks.

Last night Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair admitted he thought that nothing would have come of the incident after TMO Ben Whitehouse decided it did not merit any punitive action. “I didn’t notice it at the time,” Blair said. “I know they’d had a look at it and Ben Whitehouse had passed it off as a rugby incident and we didn’t think anything more than that.

“We checked after the game about the health of the player and he seemed OK at the time. We’ll wait and see. We’re trying to work out the right path at the moment.”

The difficulty for Edinburgh is that players who admit their guilt tend to have their sentences reduced, whereas players who even in all sincerity protest their innocence are not treated so leniently. The bottom line, however, is that Blair would prefer for Nel to be available for every match in the coming months as his team prepare for some of their biggest games of the season. 

Obviously we’ve got some important games coming up which we’d love WP to be available for,” Blair added. “It’s a complicated type of situation the way these things are decided. 

“This is a first for me and it’s an interesting process. Really difficult. We’re doing a lot of reviewing of the footage to see where we’re at and we’ll make a decision on it.”

Edinburgh play Bath at home in the Challenge Cup round of 16 on Saturday night. If they win that match, they will have a  quarter-final, also at home, against either Biarritz or Wasps. They also have three regular-season games left in the URC and need to pick up some points to ensure they remain in the league’s top eight and thus qualify for the play-offs. They currently lie seventh.


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About David Barnes 3192 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.

8 Comments

  1. Having viewed the incident I would say that there is a case to answer according to current guidelines. However my opinion is that that the guidelines require more than a bit more thought and clarity.
    There is no doubt that Nel was upright when the tackle was made and did connect with the head of the latcher. My feeling though that the forward momentum was entirely with the Pau carrier and said latcher. Nel just stood his ground.
    With the current guidelines the responsibility is entirely with the tackler (please correct me if I’m wrong) and there is no mitigation due to the actions of the attacking player who was head down running blindly into Nel (reckless play?)
    In any case case latching is a stupid rule shouldn’t be allowed in open play and is against the spirit of the game. Rant over.
    Considering the number of players who have “got off” with more serious offences, particularly in the Southern hemisphere I’ll be very disappointed if Nel incurs a ban.
    Not holding my breath though

  2. Never heard of the German citing officer. Was he/she at the game? I was, and saw nothing untoward. I also rate Ben Whitehouse the TMO, as being one of the very best of the new breed of referees and I’ve watched his career over the last five years or more.

    • She’s originally from the US, moved to Germany. Made Tier 2 assistant referee for Japan v USA in 2011. Has worked for the RFU as citing commissioner on the then Gallagher Premiership.
      Fingers crossed for WP. Kind of a rock and hard place situation – if guilty, you say it’s a fair cop to get you ban halved. If you’re innocent, your scared to say so, as unless you can actually prove you were on holiday in Wester Greenock at the actual time of the alleged offence, you’ll get a bigger ban.

    • Did you have access to all the camera angles and views the citing officer would have Ray?

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  3. This guilty until proven innocent is wrong. If the length of sanction is decided based, not on the incident, but if you plead guilty it is a huge deterrence to anyone pleading innocent. Certainly if it is a clear breach plead guilty but this is at best borderline. I don’t envy Blair and Nel their choices. I think the protocols are important as is player safety. However, how many have actually been found innocent? If any? It would make an interesting analysis piece for this site.

    • Not seen the alleged incident, but if a recognised senior international official has already reviewed it and deemed it not worthy of any sanction, yellow or red, (or penalty?)then there may be room for hope.
      However, the EPRC rules seem to suggest any citing would be for an infringement worthy of a red card only. Apologies for the lengthy copy below, but I thought it might help illustrate the process.
      (ii) Citing Commissioner
      a) Citing Commissioners are appointed by EPCR for all Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup matches and shall be entitled to cite a player for any act or acts of Foul Play that in the Citing Commissioner’s opinion warranted a red card.
      b) For such matches, clubs will not have the power to cite a player but may refer incidents to the Citing Commissioner within 26 hours of the start of the match.
      c) The Citing Commissioner will have 50 hours from the start of the match to make a citing. In certain circumstances this deadline can be extended.
      d) The tournament Disciplinary Officer may forward the submitted citing to a Citing Officer to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for the citing to progress.
      e) The Disciplinary Officer will then bring a charge against the cited player.
      (iii) Disciplinary Hearing
      a) The independent Disciplinary Committee or independent Judicial Officer are chosen by the chairman of the independent Disciplinary Panel, Mike Hamlin.
      b) EPCR’s Disciplinary Officer presents the case against the player.
      c) If a decision is upheld, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer will be required to consider the appropriate sanction under World Rugby’s sanctioning regime, which EPCR is obliged to follow. The seriousness of the player’s actions will be first assessed in order to determine which of the three stipulated entry points (lower end, mid-range and top end) is the most appropriate.
      d) The Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer will determine the appropriate entry point based on an assessment of a number of particular characteristics of the player’s actions, including whether or not they were intentional, whether or not they caused any injuries and whether or not they had any effect on the relevant match.
      e) After deciding the entry point, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer will then consider whether the suspension should be increased from the entry point to take account of certain specified aggravating factors, such as a poor disciplinary record or the need for deterrence, and/or decreased from the entry point to take account of certain specified mitigating actions, such as a guilty plea, a good disciplinary record, the player’s conduct at the hearing and expressions of remorse.
      f) A suspension is a blanket ban from playing rugby union anywhere in the world. Players are suspended on the basis that a one-week period of suspension would ordinarily result in a player missing one match. Suspensions take into account periods of inactivity (such as the close season), periods when a player is injured or otherwise not fit to play, and when a player is not available or not expected to play. Suspensions should also take into account any out-of-season matches which are not considered to be meaningful, or which are not close enough to the season to be a determining factor in a player’s future selection.
      g) Both parties to the hearing (EPCR and the player) have the right to appeal decisions. Appeals must be lodged within three (3) working days of receiving the full written decision of the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer.
      h) The full written decision will be available on http://www.epcrugby.com/discipline/hearing-decisions when the disciplinary process is complete.

  4. Not good. We hardly have any props left and thats not good against Bath.

    Without knowing the incident i do wonder about the citing officer – we have a ref, 2 touch judges and a TMO. Is that not enough without needing a citing officer to also rake over the match afterwards looking for incidents.

  5. Particularly concerning for Edinburgh given De Bruin went off on Friday with a concerning injury (as did Venter albeit he’s a loose head).

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