RFU ‘deeply disappointed’ as World Rugby closes case against Mbongeni Mbonambi

Rfu ‘Deeply Disappointed’ As World Rugby Closes Case Against Mbongeni Mbonambi
Curry will win his 50th cap when he lines up against the Pumas, despite facing extensive online abuse since his allegation against Mbonambi.
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By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent, Paris

World Rugby’s decision to close its investigation into the alleged racist slur directed at Tom Curry by Mbongeni Mbonambi due to insufficient evidence has drawn a furious response from the Rugby Football Union.

Curry claimed to referee Ben O’Keeffe in the second quarter of England’s World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa on Saturday that he had been called a “white c***” by hooker Mbonambi.


In an unexpected development, the RFU revealed that it disclosed to the inquiry that Curry “had also been the victim of the same abuse, from the same player” when the rivals clashed at Twickenham last November.


World Rugby announced it has been unable to find evidence of either incident, but the RFU insists the case should have been presented to an independent disciplinary hearing.

“The RFU fully supports Tom Curry in raising the racially abusive behaviour he experienced. The RFU is deeply disappointed by the decision taken by World Rugby,” an RFU statement read.

“The decision not to put the evidence before an independent disciplinary panel has denied the disciplinary process the opportunity to hear Tom Curry’s voice and to independently assess his account of these serious events, together with the other available evidence.”

The saga has overshadowed the build-up to Friday’s bronze final between England and Argentina and the final between New Zealand and South Africa 24 hours later.


Curry will win his 50th cap when he lines up against the Pumas, despite facing extensive online abuse since his allegation against Mbonambi was picked up by the ref mic during the 16-15 defeat by the world champions.

“In their continued full support of Tom, the RFU together with the England squad, condemns 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,” the RFU statement added.

Tom Curry, left, speaks to referee Ben O’Keeffe
Tom Curry, left, speaks to referee Ben O’Keeffe. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA.


World Rugby began looking into the incident on Monday having received an official complaint from the RFU.

“Any allegation of discrimination is taken extremely seriously by World Rugby, warranting a thorough investigation,” a World Rugby statement read.

“Having considered all the available evidence, including match footage, audio and evidence from both teams, the governing body has determined that there is insufficient evidence at this time to proceed with charges.

“Therefore, the matter is deemed closed unless additional evidence comes to light.


“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.

“World Rugby is also concerned by the social media abuse that both players have been subjected to this week.

Referee Ben O'Keeffe, right, speaks to England and South Africa captains Owen Farrell, left, and Siya Kolisi, centre
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi, centre, expressed support for Curry over online abuse. Photo: Adam Davy/PA.

“There is no place in rugby or society for discrimination, abuse or hate speech, and World Rugby urges fans to embrace the sport’s values of respect, integrity and solidarity.”

Mbonambi starts the World Cup final after being picked in the front row as the only established hooker in South Africa’s squad.

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi revealed that he has been in contact with Curry to show his support in response to the online abuse to which the Sale flanker has been subjected.

“I have spoken to him, I sent him a message. He is someone I respect,” Kolisi said.

“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, we are thinking of him.”

SA Rugby welcomed the decision not to take any action in a statement that for the first time since the saga began revealed that Mbonambi had denied any wrongdoing.

“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,” a statement read.

“Bongi Mbonambi is an experienced, respected and decorated Test player and, needless to say, denied the allegations from the outset. SA Rugby has absolute faith in the honesty and integrity of Bongi.”

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