European Rugby Cup officials have confirmed that an investigation has been launched into the Ospreys’ 16th-man controversy during their Heineken Cup win against Leicester. According to a report on www.scrum.com
Disciplinary officer Roger O’Connor is gathering statements from both clubs and the match officials after an official letter of complaint from Leicester. Leicester chief executive Peter Wheeler and chairman Peter Tom demanded an inquiry following their side’s 17-12 defeat at the Liberty Stadium that ended their European hopes and saw Pool 3 rivals Ospreys and Clermont Auvergne progress to the quarter-finals.
The incident in question occurred during the second half when Ospreys fullback Lee Byrne was forced from the field suffering from a dislocated and bloodied toe to be replaced by centre Sonny Parker. Byrne returned to the game three minutes later without any of his team-mates leaving the field and before the error was spotted the British & Irish Lions star was involved in thwarting an attack from the Tigers.
A Leicester player pointed out the Ospreys’ numerical advantage to referee Alan Lewis, who then berated an Ospreys touchline official for not informing the match fourth official that Byrne had returned. Lewis should have awarded Leicester a penalty once the extra-man situation became apparent, but it is understood an unnamed Ospreys player told him that Leicester also had 16 players on the pitch, an accusation Tigers deny.
England were fined £10,000 during the 2003 Rugby World Cup when wing Dan Luger featured as a 16th player for 34 seconds of their group-stage win against Samoa in Melbourne. The Ospreys face a similar fate with competition rules suggesting the match result must stand.
Following the game, Wheeler said, “This was a very serious incident with a 16th player interfering with a try-scoring event at a crucial part of the game. We have lodged a complaint with ERC because at a significant point of the game the Ospreys had 16 men on the pitch, and that 16th man interfered with, or was involved in, a break by [Tigers scrum-half] Ben Youngs and played a significant role in nothing developing from that.
“I don’t know which regulation they (ERC) can deal with that under, but we know and other clubs know that if you play a player who is unregistered, you get docked points and strung up and all sorts of bad things happen. You are only allowed 15 players on the pitch, so by definition, the 16th is unregistered.”
Tom added, “A serious error has been made and we have to face up to it. We don’t want to be seen as whingers, but we should have had a penalty. We’ve had 12 years of professionalism now, and we have to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
In a brief statement, the Ospreys said, “We are aware that a complaint has been lodged with ERC by Leicester Tigers. The matter is now in the hands of the ERC, and as such, it would be inappropriate for us to make any further comment on this issue.”Tweet