Tonga’s coach says black players singled out

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 15:23 10/06/2013
RugbyCanadaComm

Tonga were reduced to 13 men after high tackles and shoulder charges against Canada.

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Tonga's rugby coach Mana Otai is claiming that international referees are picking on his players because they are black.

His comments came after violence riddled and red and yellow card marred Pacific Nations match between Tonga and Canada in Kingston, Ontario. Canada won 36-27.

One Tongan was red-carded in the first half and there were two yellow cards against them.

Otai told Canadian Press (CP) that he had looked at the videos of the incidents.

"I couldn't really see why (the yellow cards were issued)," Otai told CP.

"It's almost like, these days you know, when a black man is tackling harder than the other, it seems to be the way."

Asked if the Pacific Island teams were being singled out, Otai answered: "Absolutely. It's a perception a lot of times.

"And I think some of the foreigners that are involved in our team now are starting to see that.

"It's just hard to battle or fight that stereotype, I guess. But I'm not taking away the fact that at times we do, I guess, make mistakes in terms of tackling - if I'm talking in general.

"But in today's game, I couldn't justify the two yellow cards."

The referee was John "JP" Doyle, an Irishman who is one of six full time rugby union referees employed by the English Rugby Football Union.

One of the yellow cards resulted in Canadian winger Matt Evans being carried off on a stretcher. He returned to the bench later in the match. Fullback James Pritchard needed treatment but remained on the field after the other penalized hit.

Otai also disputed the 34th-minute red card to prop Eddie Aholelei after a melee that saw Canadian flanker Jebb Sinclair decked with a punch. Canadian fly half Nathan Hirayama and Tongan winger Fetu'u Vainikolo were lucky to stay on the pitch after trading blows early on in the incident.

Otai said Hirayama started the incident.

"It's one of those thing where we've just got to behave ourselves and let the referee do his job."

Otai is likely to be in strife with the International Rugby Board.

Earlier this month New Zealand's Sir Graham Henry pleaded guilty to a misconduct charge levelled by SANZAR  after he criticised the performance of match officials during the Blues Super Rugby loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch.

In the aftermath of the Blues 23-3 loss on May 18 Henry accused the television match official Keith Brown as being "blind" after a try to Frank Halai was disallowed while Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett "got away with murder" at scrum time.

Henry was required to apologise.

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