Sébastien Piqueronies was sanctioned after footage showed him grabbing the official's arm

Pau head coach Sébastien Piqueronies has received a ten-week ban after grabbing Scottish referee Sam Grove-White following his side’s 21-16 Challenge Cup defeat to Cheetahs.

Footage of Piqueronies appearing to grab the arm of Grove-White appeared online following Saturday’s opening Challenge Cup clash. Pau believed they should have been awarded a turnover penalty in the final play, with back-row Reece Hewat involved at the breakdown.

The video depicts Piqueronies holding onto the referee with both arms before Grove-White pulls himself away after the Cheetahs had kicked the ball out of play to seal victory in their inaugural game in the European competition.

Piqueronies, who was previously in charge of France U20, was initially cited for physical abuse but was instead found guilty by an independent disciplinary committee of using threatening words and actions towards a referee.

The Pau coach could have been sidelined for as many as 96 weeks if the first charge had been upheld but instead had a 20-week ban halved due to his guilty plea and clean disciplinary record.

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), the governing body behind the Challenge Cup and Champions Cup, confirmed Piqueronies “accepted that he had made inappropriate physical contact” with Grove-White.

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EPCR said: “After consideration, the committee decided to take the case forward as a misconduct complaint and as a result, it was not required to follow World Rugby’s table of recommended sanctions.

“The committee did not accept that Piqueronies was simply trying to shake the referee’s hand and found him guilty of the less serious offence of using threatening words and actions towards the referee rather than actual physical abuse.

“It was decided that the appropriate sanction entry point was 20 weeks and due to Piqueronies’ clear disciplinary record and his guilty plea, the committee granted the full 50 per cent mitigation before imposing a suspension of 10 weeks.”

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Piqueronies is now forbidden from having any match-day contact with the squad but along with EPCR does have the right to appeal.

Jeremy Summers, chair of the three-person committee that handed down the punishment to the boss of the Top 14’s 12th-place side, added: “Match official abuse has no place in rugby and this decision reinforces the message that offenders, at whatever level, will be subject to significant sanction.”

The exact duration of the ban will be determined at a later date when Pau’s fixture list becomes clearer.

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