France have called for World Rugby to investigate a photo of referee Jaco Peyper in which he appears to mock the elbow to the head that turned the World Cup quarter-final in Wales’ favour.
Peyper sent off Sebastien Vahaamahina off for his mindless violent act early in the second half of Sunday’s 20-19 World Cup quarter-final defeat by Wales.
In full view of Oita Stadium, the Clermont lock struck Aaron Wainwright flush on the jaw while France staged an attacking maul, leaving Peyper to make one of the easier decisions of his career.
But the South Africa official has now invited controversy on to himself after a picture emerged on social media seeming to show him posing with Welsh fans and playfully landing an elbow on to the head of one.
“This photo if it is true is shocking and explanations will be necessary,” French Rugby Federation vice president Dr Serge Simon said on Twitter.
“As much as Vahaamahina deserves his red card, Jaco Peyper deserves to stop officiating in the World Cup after that. He can celebrate his match but this joke is unworthy of a referee,” one fan wrote on Twitter.
“Card fully justified, but after this photo I do wonder about the impartiality of the man in black,” another one added.
Jaco Peyper dans un bel hommage à Vahaamahina. Photo de Fabien Heuzé pic.twitter.com/g5vo93413s
— Arnaud Coudry (@ArnaudCoudry) October 20, 2019
Wales coach Warren Gatland and his France counterpart Jacques Brunel both endorsed Peyper’s decision to issue the eighth red card of Japan 2019.
The 28-year-old forward, scorer of his side’s opening try, spent the rest of the game sat on the bench with his hands on his head.
“The officials dealt with it appropriately. I don’t think anyone could complain about that. The right decision was made,” Gatland said.
“Rugby is heat of the moment stuff and he made an error of judgement. When you have got a lot of testosterone involved in some pretty high intensity games, that will sometimes happen. He’s made a poor decision.”
Brunel agreed that Vahaamahina deserved to be dismissed.
“The red card I don’t contest – when you see the images it’s very clear. He did have contact with the face so we can’t deny that,” Brunel said.
“Of course it changed the game. When you’re playing half the match with 14 men it’s difficult.”
World Rugby have announced that Vahaamahina will face a disciplinary hearing on Thursday following his dismissal.
He will appear before an independent judicial committee chaired by England’s Mike Hamlin.
Gatland, meanwhile, is looking ahead to the semi-final against South Africa with a team he claims never know they are beaten, even when playing as poorly as they did on Sunday.
“It was another example of us forgetting how to lose,” added Gatland, whose 12-year tenure as head coach looked to be ending with a disappointing defeat.
“Our players never give up, they just keep on fighting to get the result.
“The red card was significant but it sometimes galvanises teams as well. But,hats off to France, they were unlucky.
“It’s ironic that the last time we met in the World Cup the result hinged on a red card. I was nervous and was preparing what I was going to say.
“We didn’t play as well as we can but now we can prepare for the semi-final. Alun Wyn Jones said we were 240 minutes from doing something special. Now we’re 160 minutes and that must leave you excited.”