Over the past few days, the rugby world has been digesting the news
that Wasps and England Flanker James Haskell will be banned for a
ridiculously high tackle on Welsh international, Jamie Roberts. Whilst
no-one disagrees with the decision to ban Haskell, the decision has
come under some scrutiny by both rugby fans and pundits alike. But
Rewind to the 14th of January wherein the dying minutes a game
between Toulon and Benetton, Mathieu Bastareaud was heard using the
words “f****** f****t” and was subsequently cited for verbal abuse by
the match commissioner Dennis Jones. Although Bastareaud has
subsequently been banned by the disciplinary board, he will only face
a three-week ban – shorter than that of Haskell.
The general consensus on social media was that the ban was far too
lenient with many fans wondering what Bastareaud would need to have
said in order to be worthy of a high-end entry point sanction. Andy
Goode came out publicly on the issue and called on officials to “throw
the book at the French centre.” We at World Rugby News certainly feel
the decision is far too lenient and is a missed opportunity to stamp
this behavior out of the game. Although the tackle by Haskell was
reckless it’s part and parcel of the beautiful game we all love,
homophobia, on the other hand, has no place in the sport.
Although no two cases are linked, and each hearing must be held on an
individual basis this verdict has raised serious questions in the
minds of rugby fans and officials. After the verbal suffered by Samson
Lee in 2016 the governing body promised a tougher stance. As a sport
prominent gay players and officials such as Gareth Thomas and Nigel
Owens has paved the way for younger players to be open and
comfortable with their sexuality. This was rugby’s chance to stamp a
zero-tolerance policy when it comes to homophobia – this decision has
truly let the sport and it’s spectators down.
Both players will miss key games for their clubs and countries.
Haskell will be unavailable for selection in England’s opening two Six
Nations games versus Italy and Wales. Bastareaud despite being lucky
in the eyes of the rugby world with the length of the ban will miss
France’s opening Six Nations game vs Ireland, but more crucially
Toulon’s final Champions Cup game against the Llanelli Scarlets.