Howley fumes over North bite, Atonio substitution

Date published: March 18 2017

Wales head coach Rob Howley suggested that wing George North was bitten on the arm and slammed the closing stages of his side's loss to France.

Confusion dominated the closing stages of France's win after Uini Atonio was taken off for an HIA and replaced by Rabah Slimani, despite speculation over where he picked up an injury.

Wales also asked for a possible bite on North to be reviewed by referee Wayne Barnes and the TMO, but no evidence was found.

"It's gone to the TMO [television match official]. The evidence was inconclusive in terms of the images that were shown to the referees, and ultimately they've made a decision on that and it's absolutely fine," Howley told the Press Association.

"I am 100 percent behind that decision in terms of the pictures they saw. Obviously, there is evidence to suggest otherwise on George's arm.

"The evidence suggests there is a bite.

"The referee only had one angle. I haven't seen any other angles, so unfortunately it's inconclusive and you move on.

"I am sure you can ask George if you can have a look at his arm. There is evidence to suggest that there is a bite."

Turning his attention to the fall-out from the suspicious replacement of Atonio for Slimani, Howley suggested the game has been brought into disrepute.

"Integrity in our game is pretty important," Howley clarified.

"What happened towards the last 10 minutes shouldn't happen again on an international rugby field.

"The process leading up to the change of the French tighthead, the way that process occurred, we love our game too much to have those decisions. It was hugely disappointing.

"The process — him [Slimani] warming up prior to him going back on. One of their coaches outside the technical area had a conversation with the doctor, and within a minute of it, the tighthead was taken off.

"In terms of the HIA and the process, I've spoken to Wayne [match referee Wayne Barnes] to talk about that process. The evidence suggests that it is not in the integrity of our game.

"There is a technical area, and you are not allowed outside that. Ultimately, someone has come outside that and allowed the doctor to go on at a break in play, which is outside the laws of the game.

"You can hear Wayne Barnes ask him [Atonio] if he is okay. He [Atonio] said he had a sore back, but that he was okay. And then the doctor comes on, and he goes off.

"Wayne, in terms of the last 10 minutes, that wasn't Wayne's fault. He has listened to a medic.

"You can imagine the emotional fall-out. I don't know what can be done, because ultimately it is the trust of the information between management and a referee.

"Whoever has come outside the technical area – I don't know who it was – but he has been able to get to someone to get on the field, and they were able to make that switch.

"The integrity of the game has been brought into disrepute."

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