Rugby union: Australia's Phipps warned over Argentina medic clash in 33-21 win

Argentina's Matis Moroni (centre) gets into an altercation with Australia's Nick Phipps (left) and Bernard Foley during their test match in Twickenham on Oct 8, 2016.
Argentina's Matis Moroni (centre) gets into an altercation with Australia's Nick Phipps (left) and Bernard Foley during their test match in Twickenham on Oct 8, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

TWICKENHAM, England (AFP) - Australia's Nick Phipps escaped with a warning after pushing a member of Argentina's medical staff during the Wallabies' 33-21 Rugby Championship win at Twickenham on Saturday.

Replacement scrum-half Phipps had not been on the field for long when the incident took place in the 67th minute.

With Australia leading 25-18, the Pumas medic came on to the pitch and looked as if he might pick up the ball, which was "dead" at the time.

Phipps then shoved him to the ground.

His action led to players from both sides running in.

Once the brief melee was over, French referee Mathieu Raynal - who in the first half had yellow-carded Australia's Michael Hooper and Adam Coleman for high tackles - opted against sin-binning Phipps as well.

But he did award a penalty which Argentina kicked to cut the deficit to four points before the Wallabies pulled away late on.

Tournament organisers Sanzaar (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby) said in a statement issued on Sunday that while Phipps had been cited for an act contrary to good sportsmanship, the citing commissioner, after reviewing the footage, deemed a warning "appropriate".

While Phipps may have been fortunate to avoid a yellow card, questions were also raised over the medic's presence on the field at that time.

Australia coach Michael Cheika said after the match: "I'm not quite sure what went down to be honest. No one was injured."

"Nick's probably trying to get the ball, I really don't know what was going through anyone's minds. The ref dealt with it on the field...It happens once in a blue moon."

Nevertheless, there have long been concerns that teams' ever-expanding backroom staff make clashes like the one involving Phipps increasingly likely.

Cheika himself referred to an incident in June, where England's Mike Brown pushed Nathan Grey during the visitors' 39-28 win in the first Test in Brisbane after the Australia assistant coach, albeit standing inside the technical area, tried to stop the full-back making a clean catch on the touch-line in order to prevent a quick line-out.

"The English full-back had a crack at one of our staff because he put his arm out for the ball," said Cheika.

"It happens, it's usually a miscommunication or heat of the moment."

Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade played down Saturday's incident by insisting: "We didn't see it. We were far away."

The Twickenham clash came just weeks after Phipps found himself under fire for throwing away the boot of New Zealand's Malakai Fekitoa during the All Blacks' 29-9 win in the second Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington.

Saturday's win meant the Wallabies finished second in the championship above South Africa.