Steve Borthwick and Owen Farrell defend Tom Curry after abuse

Steve Borthwick insists an ongoing investigation over alleged ‘white ****’ slur made by South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi is ‘not a Tom Curry issue’… as captain Owen Farrell slams abuse directed at the England flanker

  • England’s Tom Curry alleged Mbonambi called him a ‘white c***’ in exchange 
  • The flanker will still start England’s third-place play-off match with Argentina
  • Borthwick and Farrell gave their support to Curry after a storm of online abuse
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

England head coach Steve Borthwick and captain Owen Farrell have hit out at abuse directed to Tom Curry as an investigation continues into a complaint made by the flanker during their semi-final loss to South Africa.

Curry complained that he had been called a ‘white ***t’ by Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi during the national team’s agonising 16-15 semi-final defeat at the Stade de France last Saturday.  

The 25-year-old approached referee Ben O’Keeffe to report the alleged comment during the match.

Curry has received a storm of online abuse since making the allegation, including death threats.

Borthwick praised Curry for being the ‘ultimate professional’ ahead of England’s third place match against Argentina, where he will start at No 6.

Tom Curry alleged that Bongi Mbonambi called him a ‘white c***’ in the World Cup semi-final

Steve Borthwick insisted World Rugby’s investigation should not be seen as a ‘Tom Curry issue’

Captain Owen Farrell blasted online abuse aimed at Curry since he made the allegation

‘From my point of view Tom Curry’s preparation this week has been the ultimate professional,’ Borthwick said at a pre-match press conference.

‘He always is every single day, every single week. This is not a Tom Curry incident.

‘Somebody has said something in a game that he has reported and he is getting on with preparing.

‘Now this is a World Rugby and SA Rugby matter to be dealt with, not and England Rugby, not a Tom Curry matter.’

Farrell criticised the abuse aimed at Curry, with the England captain insisting the team is supporting him ‘all the way’. 

‘The effect the abuse has – not just on him – is what I and we really don’t understand,’ Farrell said.

‘You are dealing with a human being, just because you are saying stuff on your phone or behind a screen doesn’t make it acceptable.

‘I hope he knows that everyone close to him supports him and backs him all the way. I am sure he does.’

The flanker asked referee Ben O’Keeffe: ‘When their hooker calls me a white c***, what do I do?’

Mbonambi played the full 80 minutes for the Springboks in their semi-final victory 

Curry’s club team Sale Sharks have also stated that they are ‘appalled by the abuse’ he has been targeted with.

They wrote on X, formerly Twitter: ‘Sale Sharks’ owners, players, coaches and staff are absolutely appalled by the nature and level of disgusting abuse directed at Tom Curry and his family in relation to an incident in the England v South Africa World Cup semi-final.

‘Everyone at the club stands fully and proudly behind Tom and we look forward to welcoming him back to Carrington.’ 

Some South African fans claimed that Mbonambi could have been speaking Africaans.

The Springboks often speak Afrikaans to hide their plans from opponents.

Their fans suggest the hooker may have been saying ‘wit kant’ – which translates to ‘white side’ – indicating the colour England were playing in on the day.

In England’s dramatic 15-16 loss to South Africa, Curry approached referee Ben O’Keeffe in the 28th minute of the match, and is heard to say over the ref mic: ‘Sir, sir, if their hooker calls me a white c***, what do I do?’

O’Keeffe replied: ‘Nothing, please.’

Mbonambi can play in the Rugby World Cup final this weekend as the investigation continues

After the final whistle, there was a noticeable altercation between Curry and Mbonambi, who appeared to refuse to shake the England forward’s hand and marched off down the tunnel.

It was confirmed on Monday that the English Rugby Football Union had lodged an official complaint about the incident, prompting World Rugby to open an investigation.

A statement released by World Rugby – the global governing body – said: ‘World Rugby takes allegations of discriminatory behaviour extremely seriously.

‘We can confirm that we are formally reviewing the allegation made by England’s Tom Curry in relation to the use of discriminatory language during the England versus South Africa Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final on Saturday.

‘World Rugby will not be making any further comment until the conclusion of the process.’

Mbonambi is free to start for South Africa in Saturday’s final against New Zealand, with the investigation expected to conclude after the showpiece. 

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