RWC News: World Rugby investigates Mbonambi racist slur allegation, Cup final ref locked in


World Rugby has opened an investigation into the alleged racist slur directed at England flanker Tom Curry by South Africa hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final.

The global governing body said on Monday it was formally looking into the claim, which — if proven — threatens Mbonambi’s participation in the final against New Zealand on Saturday.

Curry claimed to referee Ben O’Keeffe in the second quarter of the Stade de France clash – which the Springboks won 16-15 –  that he had been called a “white c—” by Mbonambi.

“World Rugby takes all allegations of discriminatory behaviour extremely seriously,” a statement read.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“We can confirm that we are formally reviewing the allegation made by England’s Tom Curry in relation to the use of discriminatory language during the England versus South Africa Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final on Saturday.

“World Rugby will not be making further comment until the conclusion of the process.”

South Africa said on Sunday they are “aware of the allegation, which we take very seriously,” and are “reviewing the available evidence.”

“We will engage with Bongi if anything is found to substantiate the claim,” SA Rugby said.

When asked after the match if Mbonambi had said something he should not have done, Curry said: “Yeah.” He declined to reveal the content of the remark.

Mbonambi took over as captain once Siya Kolisi was replaced early in the second half against England.

Lawes packs it in

Vice-captain Courtney Lawes will retire from England duty at the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup.

The 34-year-old has played in four World Cups and two British and Irish Lions tours and is one of only five Englishmen to be capped 100 times.

His bid to finish on a high with coach Steve Borthwick’s side ended against South Africa in Saturday’s semi-final.

“I think it’s time. I’ve done four World Cups, so I’m pretty happy with that,” he said.

Courtney Lawes of England looks on in the rain during the Summer International match between England and Fiji at Twickenham Stadium on August 26, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

“I haven’t told Steve yet! But I will let him know.

“It’s a bit of an end of an era, but it’s been a real honour for me to represent England for so long. It flies by.

“I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on. To be able to finish with this group, it’s something I’ll treasure forever.”

Lawes, who has made 105 international appearances across 15 years, could play his final game in Friday’s bronze-medal match Argentina.

He made his England debut against Australia in 2009 when Borthwick was team captain.

The flanker was a beaten finalist against the Springboks in 2019 and also played in the 2011 and 2015 tournaments, in addition to representing the Lions in 2017 and 2021.

He believes England have a bright future and is determined to sign off at international level, although he will continue to play at at club level for Northampton, by helping the team finish third.

“We showed to everyone what it means to play for this team,” he said. “Play for your country and the boys alongside you.

“I think people can see now what a good coach he is – and where this team can really go.

“We want to finish on a high. It’s important for us to finish properly and send us all off on a good win.”

Barnes to get final appointment

Wayne Barnes, Test rugby’s most experienced whistleblower, will referee his first World Cup final on Sunday (AEDT) according to media reports.
The tournament organisers have yet to announce Barnes’ selection but various reports say he has the job of refereeing the match between New Zealand and South Africa.

Barnes is in his fifth World Cup. In his first, in 2007, he upset All Blacks fans over an error in their quarter-final loss to France where he allowed the French to score off a forward pass. Later that year he apparently was voted the third most hated man in New Zealand.

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