All Blacks prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi received an official warning Wednesday but escaped further sanction for a tackle which caused a double fracture to the face of Remy Grosso, ending the France wing’s tour.
World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, said the tackle was “just short” of the level of a red card, which probably would have seen Tu’ungafasi suspended for the rest of the series.
Grosso, France’s only try-scorer in their 52-11 thrashing by the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday, was taken to hospital after colliding with Tu’ungafasi’s shoulder.
In the same tackle Grosso, who has been ruled out of the second and third Tests, suffered a high shot from All Blacks flanker Sam Cane.
French coach Jacque Brunel labelled the tackle as “dangerous” and “illegal”, but in a statement World Rugby said there were “mitigating factors” which ruled out a red card.
“Having reviewed all available camera angles, the citing commissioner (South African Freek Burger) considered Ofa Tu’ungafasi to have executed a dangerous tackle ‘just short of’ red card level,” the statement said.
Burger determined the mitigating factors included Grosso’s body position lowering as he went into contact with Cane, who made the initial tackle immediately before Tu’ungafasi.
The All Blacks prop received a warning “issued for acts of foul play that are viewed by the citing commissioner to come close to but do not warrant the player receiving a red card,” World Rugby said.
Tu’ungafasi tweeted an apology to Grosso after the match, saying the hit was unintentional.
“Remy, I hope you’re recovering well. It was a physical game and it wasn’t my intention to hurt you,” he wrote.
“I’m also gutted that I didn’t get to see u after the game and u weren’t well for me to visit u in hospital this morning before we left but I hope to catch up soon brother.”
Cane was penalised on field for his tackle, and World Rugby said no further action was warranted against the flanker.
The second match in the three-Test series is played in Wellington on Saturday.