EPCR condemns ‘regrettable incident’ after fan appears to confront Vunipola

Saracens' Billy Vunipola is confronted by a Munster fan after the game. Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Update: Tournament organisers have condemned a spectator who appeared to confront England star Billy Vunipola following Saracens’ Heineken Champions Cup semi-final victory over Munster.

In a statement, European Professional Club Rugby said: “EPCR does not condone the entry of a spectator to the field of play.

“Following the regrettable incident at the Ricoh Arena, the spectator in question is currently being detained by the stadium authorities.”

There was no intention to hurt anyone. I am just grateful to play.

Vunipola, meanwhile, said there was “no intention to hurt anyone” following his social media post and support for Folau.

He told BT Sport: “Behind closed doors I felt a lot of love, a lot of kindness shown to me. I am just very grateful to be part of this team.

“From my point of view, I believe in what I believe in.

“There was no intention to hurt anyone. I am just grateful to play.”

Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said he did not see the post-match incident, while a question on the matter to Munster boss Johann Van Graan at his press conference was blocked by one of Munster’s media team.

McCall said: “Billy was outstanding today, and so were all of his team-mates, to be honest.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall hailed Vunipola’s performance (Simon Galloway/PA)

“As a group, we were determined not to let this week pass us by because we work incredibly hard to be involved in weeks like this one, games like this one.

“And we ended up having a brilliant week, and you can see that in the performance today. You could see how tight we were.

“The club dealt with it (Vunipola social media posts). It’s been dealt with, it was dealt with decisively, it was dealt with quickly and it was dealt with, in my opinion, fairly.

“Then we just got on with the rugby, and that’s what we are here to do, get on with the rugby.

Munster well backed by a large following at the Ricoh Arena (David Davies/PA)

“I thought we played really well. Although the scoreboard said 12-9 at half-time, it didn’t feel like that.

“The thing that pleased me most was that the players understood that the scoreboard did not necessarily reflect how well we had played and what we were building towards.

“I was just really pleased with our intensity, which was relentless the whole game, and the control we had emotionally as well.”

Owen Farrell kicked 22 points in Saracens’ victory (David Davies/PA)

Vunipola confronted by fan in Munster jersey following defence of Folau comments

By Simon Lewis

Champions Cup organisers EPCR have passed on the details of a supporter to Munster Rugby who confronted Saracens player Billy Vunipola on the field at the end of Saturday’s semi-final in Coventry.

The supporter, wearing a Munster jersey, came onto the side of the pitch as man of the match Vunipola was doing a lap of honour with his team-mates following Saracens’ comprehensive victory over the Irish province at the Ricoh Arena.

Vunipola had been booed by some of the 16,235 crowd at the match, the vast majority of whom were supporting Munster, following the England star’s formal warning by his club as to his future conduct after he had used his social media account to defend controversial comments by Australian player Israel Folau.

Folau was found to be in breach of contract by the Australian Rugby Union after he published an Instagram quote declaring “hell awaits” homosexual. Vunipola liked Folau’s post and in one of his own defended the Australian by commenting: “Saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be,” adding:

“man was made for woman to pro-create.”

Saracens consider the matter closed after handing Vunipola a warning while the incident led to competition organisers saying: “EPCR does not condone the entry of a spectator to the field of play. Following the regrettable incident at the Ricoh Arena, the spectator in question is currently being detained by the stadium authorities.”

He was later released and police are understood not have become involved while Munster refused to comment on the incident but it is understood the supporter’s details will be passed to the province for them to determine whether to take any action.

A Munster spokesperson stopped head coach Johann van Graan from commenting on the incident during his post-match press conference, saying “We’re not going to be talking about Munster supporters that we didn’t see. We’ll keep it to the rugby, we didn’t even see that, we’re not going to comment on that. We don’t even know if, this could be a Saracens fan wearing a Munster jersey, we don’t know anything about it, sorry. We’ll skip that.”

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