URC:Tappe Henning says dissent will be dealt with in the ‘harshest way’

United Rugby Championship head of match officials Tappe Henning has called for referees to crack down on dissent from players.

United Rugby Championship head of match officials Tappe Henning has called for referees to crack down on dissent from players.

Henning’s remarks were insulted by Connacht centre Bundee Aki’s reaction to being red-carded for a dangerous cleanout against the Stormers, in which the Irish international confronted referee Gianluca Gnecchie despite being given his marching orders.

The South African emphasized that the player must respect the referee’s decision regardless of their feelings about the incident.

If players take their protests too far, they will face disciplinary action.“Referees understand that players believe they are correct in their execution and what they want to do,” Henning said.

“Players understand that, if the referee deems something is a red-card offence, it has a huge impact on their team and they are emotional. In those situations, you don’t need referees to overact.

“If it exceeds the limit and starts becoming directed at the match officials, accusing them of incompetence or directly aiming at the ability of the referee and their decision-making we expect the referees to draw the line and say: ‘Bundee, we’ve had enough. I know you’re disappointed’.

“I thought Gianluca was very smart in how he said ‘I explained’ and asked the captain to deal with the player, just to diffuse the situation.

“If it gets worse than that then the referee will definitely act. I’m pretty sure that in the disciplinary process, I’ve seen many times how the disciplinary hearing makes mention of the player accepting the decision of the match official on the day.

“In this case, I’m pretty sure that the disciplinary hearing will probably give its attention to that, I don’t want to say what they should do but I’ve seen examples where it was addressed.

“It comes into consideration when the sanction is being reached.”

Henning understands that outbursts such as Aki’s are in the heat of the moment, but dissent is being monitored and will be dealt with accordingly.

“Players know that poor behaviour towards the match official when such a big decision is being made can lead to a different sanction in terms of weeks,” he said.

“To sum up, we don’t want referees to overreact when they realise the player with adrenaline in the heat of the moment says something that two minutes later he’ll be sorry about. I’m pretty sure Bundee, when he was back in his seat, was saying ‘actually I am in trouble here’.

“At that moment, he would have defended with his life because he’s part of a team and realises he’s let his team down, he tries to defend it.

“If we sense it is becoming a problem and we’ll send out a message to the clubs first that match officials will not tolerate it and it’s a club problem. If it comes on to the field, we as match officials will deal with it in the harshest way.”

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