Scottish Rugby today announced its conclusions from the internal inquiry into the last minute standing down of Perpignan lock Nathan Hines from the Scotland v Australia Bank of Scotland Corporate Test last November.
On 25 November Scottish Rugby declared that Nathan Hines could not play for Scotland in his country’s match against Australia. This followed confusion over his eligibility to play for Scotland, as a consequence of an earlier complaint by French side Stade Francais against the Perpignan lock, in a French club game on 4th November in Paris.
Earlier that week Scottish Rugby was led to understand from legal advice that the complaint by Stade Francais against Hines (for what the French club regarded as an alleged act of foul play and which later led to his 20 day suspension), was contrary to natural justice and so would not contravene International Rugby Board regulations had Hines taken the field.
However, upon further consultation with the IRB, it became clear that there would indeed have been repercussions arising if Hines had played against Australia.
Scottish Rugby’s Chief Executive, Gordon McKie, then confirmed that he would conduct an inquiry into the events surrounding the matter.
This has taken longer than anticipated, as information was required internally from the Scotland team management, various administration and disciplinary personnel, Scotland’s external legal advisor for disciplinary matters and also various external partners - the French Rugby Federation (FFR), the League National de Rugby in France (LNR), Hines’ club Perpignan and the International Rugby Board.
Scottish Rugby has made every effort to carry out a thorough review of all the circumstances surrounding the matter, which it believed arose partly as a consequence of the significant complexity that exists between the disciplinary procedures and interpretations in operation for clubs in France and the UK.
Gordon McKie commented, “Whilst I feel we made the right decision in standing down Nathan Hines from the Australia game, it came very late. I propose to strengthen our internal processes to ensure there is no repeat of this sort of situation in the future.
“Admittedly this was a particularly complex case but nevertheless there will be much better communication between the Scotland management team and administrative, legal and disciplinary advisers, moving forward. We must ensure a highly complex area such as discipline is fully understood, especially when it involves our overseas international players.”
Scottish Rugby has discussed the matter with the IRB to keep the international body up to date on the background to the Nathan Hines case.
In cases involving French club disciplinary procedures of international players there may be differences of procedures depending on whether it is a club or international match.
McKie added, “There is no doubt these are complex areas where genuine errors can occur. However, our internal processes will be refined in the light of this episode and we will ensure that there is much greater consultation with the IRB over their interpretation of such regulations.”
Scottish Rugby is currently seeking an update on Nathan Hines’ situation in France as regards the Stade Francais complaint.
Hines said today, “I was told by my club that there was to be a preliminary hearing to determine whether I needed to appear before a discipline panel, then learned I had been banned. That’s where the confusion arose as I always denied the complaint and protested my innocence.
“I was obviously very disappointed to miss out on the Autumn Test match against Australia but look forward, fitness and selection permitting, to hopefully playing again for Scotland in this season’s RBS 6 Nations.”