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Rugby World Cup: Steve Borthwick accuses World Rugby over handling of claims of alleged on-pitch slur

Bongi Mbonambi played the full 80 minutes against England as South Africa’s only specialist hooker left in their squad
Bongi Mbonambi played the full 80 minutes against England as the only specialist hooker left in South Africa’s squad
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Dates: Saturday, 28 October Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

England have accused World Rugby of denying Tom Curry a fair hearing over his allegation of an on-field racial slur by South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi.

Curry claims he was abused during last Saturday’s World Cup semi-final defeat, after a similar comment was made by Mbonambi last November.

“Tom Curry has done nothing wrong,” said head coach Steve Borthwick.

“World Rugby made a decision not to allow the opportunity for the victim’s voice to be heard.”

The world governing body, which has been approached for comment, reviewed video and audio footage and submissions from both teams, before clearing Mbonambi, ruling there was “insufficient evidence” that he had used the alleged term.

It added that the case was “closed unless additional evidence comes to light”.

The Rugby Football Union said it was “deeply disappointed”external-link by the decision not to charge Mbonambi and convene an independent disciplinary panel at which Curry could give evidence and answer questions.

“Everyone associated with this team shares that bitter disappointment at World Rugby’s decision,” added Borthwick.

South Africa face the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup final in Paris on Saturday from 20:00 BST, with Mbonambi free to take part.

Curry, 25, has suffered online abuse for reporting the incident, which England captain Owen Farrell described as “unacceptable”.

An RFU statement read: “In their continued full support of Tom, the RFU together with the England squad, condemn the disgusting abuse he and his family has received on social media as a result of his having had the courage to put unacceptable behaviour that has no place in society or on the rugby field, in the public eye.

“Abuse of any kind is not acceptable and goes against the core values of rugby.

“It is important that it is safe and acceptable for everyone involved in rugby union to raise concerns, and the RFU continue to encourage everyone to report any unacceptable behaviour in the game.”

World Rugby said it was “concerned” by the online abuse both players had suffered. Organisers introduced technologyexternal-link intended to protect players, officials and coaches from abuse before the tournament.

“It is important to note that World Rugby accepts that Tom Curry made the allegations in good faith, and that there is no suggestion that the allegation was deliberately false or malicious,” a statement read.

The South African Rugby Union (SA Rugby) said it welcomed the decision that no further action will be taken.

“SA Rugby has absolute faith in the honesty and integrity of Bongi,” a statement read.

“Bongi Mbonambi is an experienced, respected and decorated Test player and, needless to say, denied the allegations from the outset,” a statement read.

“Any form of racism is abhorrent to SA Rugby and the Springbok team, whose purpose is to do everything in its power to assist in uniting our diverse and multicultural nation.”

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi says he has reached out to Curry and hopes the abuse will stop.

“I have spoken to him, I sent him a message,” Kolisi said.

“He is someone I respect. We can take it as players. When it comes to you, it’s fine, but when families are involved, it’s different.

“I have let him know we are supporting him and are thinking of him.”

Nienaber brings back De Klerk and Pollard

Head coach Jacques Nienaber has named the most experienced South Africa team ever to face the All Blacks in Paris on Saturday.

Nienaber makes two changes to the XV that started the semi-final win over England, with half-backs Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard replacing Cobus Reinach and Manie Libbok.

Fly-half Pollard came on as a surprise replacement for Libbok after just 31 minutes of the semi-final, and kicked a late match-winning penalty.

Both Reinach and Libbok drop out of the matchday squad completely, with Nienaber opting for a 7-1 split of forwards to backs on the bench. Willie le Roux is the only back replacement.

In the event that De Klerk picks up an injury, Nienaber confirmed winger Cheslin Kolbe will move into scrum-half.

“He played sweeper in sevens which is the equivalent to scrum-half. He has always been a guy who, if we got a yellow card, would be the stand in half-back, not just this week but for a couple of weeks,” the head coach said.

It is the second time South Africa have attempted the 7-1 split at the tournament, having done so for their 13-8 defeat by Ireland in the pool stage.

Nienaber added: “The team is not 15, it is 23. We always say that. When you do squad selection, there are a lot of things that influence that, from medical to past performances and a lot of analysis into New Zealand and where we think we can get the edge on them.

“Then the discussions start between the coaches and it goes from a 5-3 to a 6-2 to a 7-1, then it goes back again. It is not a 10-minute discussion, it is hours and hours.”

Lock Jean Kleyn, who represented Ireland at the 2019 World Cup before switching allegiances under World Rugby’s birthright amendment rule,external-link is on the bench, as is number eight Jasper Wiese.

Both players are yet to feature in the knockout stages, as South Africa stuck with the same 23 players against France and England.

New Zealand and South Africa are both bidding to become the first nation to win the World Cup for a fourth time.


South Africa: Willemse; Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe; Pollard, De Klerk; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Vermeulen.

Replacements: Fourie, Nche, Nyakane, Kleyn, Snyman, Smith, Wiese, Le Roux.

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