France backtracked Sunday on claims of “dangerous” and “illegal” play by the All Blacks and accepted the double head fracture that put Remy Grosso in hospital was the result of an accident.
The try-scoring wing was smashed in a tackle by All Blacks Sam Cane and Ofa Tu’ungafasi during the hosts’ overwhelming 52-11 victory in Auckland on Saturday.
Cane was penalised for a high tackle but Tu’ungafasi escaped punishment, leaving furious French coach Jacques Brunel calling for the incident to be reviewed by officials immediately after the game. But after going over replays himself, Brunel said he now accepted the collision was not deliberate.
“After reviewing the case it seems accidental, Ofa appears to be going down when he and Sam Cane collided with Remy,” he said Sunday.
“On one screen it looked like his shoulder hit the head but on the other it seems it was head against head. It was accidental.”
The injuries have put Grosso out of the rest of the tour, but he will stay with the team until he is medically cleared to fly again.
Tu’ungafasi tweeted Sunday that he did not deliberately try to hurt Grosso.
“Remy, I hope you’re recovering well. It was a physical game and it wasn’t my intention to hurt you,” he wrote.
“I’m also gutted that I didn’t get to see u after the game and u weren’t well for me to visit u in hospital this morning before we left but I hope to catch up soon brother.”
The All Blacks had earlier dismissed Brunel’s accusations of illegal tactics, describing Grosso’s double fracture as “one of those things”.
France lock Paul Gabrillagues had earlier been yellow carded for a high tackle on Ryan Crotty, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believed neither incident required a player to be sent off.
“I can understand they would be a little miffed when their guy got a yellow card,” Hansen said after twice reviewing video of the hard-hitting Test.
“I don’t think their guy should have been yellow carded, nor do I think Ofa should have been yellow carded. Sammy made the tackle and Ofa ended up hitting him in the face with his shoulder accidentally.
“There was no intention to hurt him and unfortunately it’s one of those things. All three of them got head knocks. Our game is really fluid, there’s movement in it and when you get two guys coming at you to make a tackle on one things can change late and I think that’s what happened.”
Hansen said it appeared Grosso slipped as the All Blacks closed in on him.
“That’s my point. When the game is fluid like it is and players change their angle, and you’ve committed (to the tackle), especially when you’re a big guy like Ofa is, it’s difficult to get out of the way.
“It was accidental and just one of those things.”
© Agence France-Presse (additional edits from Chris Kelleher)