France’s Aurelien Rougerie is at the centre of an eye-gouging storm regarding All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and an inciden that occurred in the closing minutes of Sunday’s Rugby World Cup final.
Video images released by Sky Television in New Zealand appear to show Rougerie’s fingers move across the eyes of McCaw who was lying trapped at the bottom of a ruck three minutes before the end of the game won by the All Blacks 8-7.
McCaw, who is leading the All Blacks on a victory tour through the main cities of New Zealand, confirmed he “got a poke in the eye” in Sunday’s match but he did not know if it was deliberate.
All Blacks backrower Kieran Read told Television New Zealand he did not see the incident but “at the time, the skip said he was getting eye-gouged. Obviously something has happened.”
Sky’s “Reunion” programme host Tony Johnson identified the player involved in the video as Rougerie and commentator Grant Nisbett described the footage as “damning”.
Although eye-gouging can carry a six-month suspension, the All Blacks have played down the incident and said they do not want to make an issue of it.
An International Rugby Board spokesman also confirmed the citing period for the game was over.
Before departing New Zealand late Tuesday, the French management refused to comment on the allegations.
However, French media manager Lionel Rossigneux did accuse McCaw of kneeing one of their players in the face in the game.
“A knee hit the face of Morgan Parra by Richie McCaw,” Rossigneux told the New Zealand Herald.
“We just found it a bit sad that after the Rugby World Cup, there is still some stories in the newspaper rather than celebrating the All Blacks’ victory,” he added.
McCaw required medical treatment for the eye incident and was seen to speak to referee Craig Joubert before playing on.
The release of the video footage brought the curtain down on a controversial end to the World Cup for France.
On Tuesday, the team was fined for breaching IRB protocols when they advanced on the All Blacks during their pre-match haka or war dance, and several players were involved in an incident with press photographers outside an inner-city restaurant.
France coach Marc Lievremont had earlier rounded on players who defied his orders and went out partying after their narrow 9-8 World Cup semi-final win over Wales.
“I told them what I thought of them, that they were spoilt brats, selfish, disobedient and that for four years they have been on my case,” he said.
Watch a video of the incident here: