June 26, 2014
An angry Sean Fitzpatrick remonstrates with the referee after being bitten by Johan Le Roux © Getty Images
Johan Le Roux
A bite that ended the career of the South Africa prop who was clearly seen on TV in a game against the All Blacks in Wellington biting Sean Fitzpatrick's ear, although it was not spotted by the referee. To their credit, the South Africans acted immediately, sending Le Roux home and baning him for 18 months. "I warned him before the tour that if he got involved in another incident, he would not play for South Africa again," Louis Luyt, the president of the South African Rugby Football Union, said. And he never did. Le Roux's comment after the disciplinary hearing hardly helped his cause. "For an 18-month suspension, I feel I probably should have torn it off," he said. He subsequently claimed he "was provoked and retaliated" adding: "I was wearing a mouthguard and there were no scratches or stitches. For as long as I live I will feel that New Zealand treated me unfairly."
The most surprising name on the list - and perhaps a sign that biting in not a new problem - Wakefield, the epitome of the amateur captain, and one of the best England ever had, recalled causally in an instruction book written shortly after he retired that in a game against Ireland at Twickenham in 1925 he found himself at the bottom of a ruck with the arm of an Ireland player boring into his face. After a few seconds of restraint he decided enough was enough "so I bit it". It had the desired effect. The arm moved. The game went on. And that was that.
A man with previous, Hartley was slapped with an eight-week ban in 2012 for biting Ireland's Stephen Ferris during a Six Nations match. The incident was not caught on TV or seen by referee Nigel Owens but he was made aware something had happened and called over the captains. "I have an accusation of biting, a clear mark on the finger," he told them. "I did not see something. If I do, it will be dealt with severely, which would be a red card. It could be dealt with afterwards. If it is seen, it will be dealt with. I did not see it. Have a word. Nothing like that takes place in this game." Had evidence been conclusive, Hartley faced a minimum ban of 12 weeks, but because he had not been in trouble since being banned for 26 weeks for gouging in 2007 he was given a four-week reduction. Hartley said he was "disappointed" with the punishment. Many other thought he was very lucky.
The Bath prop bit the ear of London Scottish flanker Simon Fenn during a Tetley Bitter Cup match, badly enough that it left Fenn needing 25 stitches. A four-day RFU investigation found Yates guilty and hit him with a six-month ban. There was widespread condemnation of the punishment being so lenient even from fellow-biter Le Roux, while Scotland's David Sole, said: "If he has been told he is guilty, he shouldn't be playing the game of rugby." Yates, who repeatedly denied the accusations, was also ordered to pay £23,000 in costs. Yates moved to New Zealand for a while but returned home in 2004 and went on to win two more England caps.
Fiji international Koyamaibole pleaded guilty when charged with biting London Irish flanker Declan Danaher during the Amlin Challenge Cup clash with Bordeaux-Begles. "I suddenly felt a bite on my arm and we then ripped the ball away and went on to score," Danaher said. "It was only then that I looked at my arm where I saw I had something like 18 teeth marks and it had started to bleed in one place. I must admit I was quite shocked that someone would do that playing a game of rugby. I did ask him if he did do it, but he did not reply." Koyamaibole was banned for the minimum period of 12 weeks after the judicial officer ruled there was no major injury and it was at the lower end of the offending register.
As the Championship match between Plymouth and Bristol in 2012 turned into a mass brawl, Hobson's part in the fracas was to bite the arm of Plymouth's Bevon Armitage, resulting in a 12-week ban, a decision that angered Bristol. "You cannot see anything [on the video footage] and Jason categorically denies the charge," said club boss Steve Gorvett. "It's balance of probability evidence and that surprises us." Bristol and Plymouth were also charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Union or the game following a mass brawl.
The Argentina No.8 was suspended for nine weeks after biting South Africa's Eben Etzebeth during a tense Rugby Championship match in 2013. His lighter-than-expected punishment was a result of "significant provocation" by Etzebeth who had grabbed Senatore round the neck. Etzebeth was fortunate himself, shoving Senatore to the ground right in front of referee Steve Walsh and then smacking him in the back of the head as he tried to get up.
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