INTERNATIONAL RUGBY LEAGUE (IRL) has launched an investigation into the controversial behaviour of official Laurent Abrial during the Wheelchair World Cup final.
England beat France in the final at Manchester Central with a late try, but the closing stages were made even more dramatic by the antics of Abrial.
The Frenchman was serving as the defence referee, one of two main officials in a wheelchair game.
After having a decision overruled by the lead/attack referee, Ollie Cruickshank, Abrial began to protest by gesticulating wildly as play continued.
When he then gave two penalty decisions in favour of France to the crowd’s frustration, he began to aim his gestures towards supporters as well.
His bizarre actions continued beyond the final whistle, with video footage appearing to show him make a rude gesture to the crowd and furiously arguing with World Cup officials.
IRL Secretary General Danny Kazandjian said: “The referee’s performance is currently being reviewed, but based on publicly available evidence, IRL believes that an investigation into potential misconduct is warranted.
“If our investigation supports that initial view, we will seek disciplinary actions through the independent IRL judiciary.
“Until the full process is concluded, Laurent Abrial will not be considered for any appointments to international matches.”
Abrial has also been suspended by the French federation (FFRXIII) for what they described as his “inappropriate attitude”.
After the match a French team official, Robert Fassolette, said of Abrial’s behaviour: “I must apologise for that.
“He took a decision because he was very close to the action. The lead referee did not accept his decision. This is not fair. They should work together and the nearest has the last say, or they have to discuss it.”
England head coach Tom Coyd declined to comment on Abrial but praised his players for keeping calm during the controversy.
“We’ve had a theme in this tournament called Captain Sobel, which is a clip from (TV series) Band of Brothers,” said Coyd.
“It was a metaphor for stuff going wrong, people trying to tear us down. The band of brothers stay connected, and that’s all we did.”