French league bans rugby player for lifting ref to celebrate win

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Josaia Raisuqe lifts referee Laurent Milotte. (Twitter)
Josaia Raisuqe lifts referee Laurent Milotte. (Twitter)

Fijian winger Josaia Raisuqe, who lifted the referee to celebrate the final whistle in a French second division game, has been banned for five weeks, the National Rugby League (LNR) announced on Wednesday.

At the final whistle, as his team Nevers held on with 14 men to win 30-25 at Beziers on 8 January, Raisuqe lifted the referee Laurent Milotte. The referee brandished the red card.

"At the end of the match, the first person I saw was the referee and I lifted him up," Raisuqe told Midi Olympique newspaper. "It was awkward, but I didn't want to hurt him! I was just happy."

A clip of the incident went viral on social networks.

"My phone kept ringing. It was unbearable," said the 26-year-old former Stade Francais player, who said he was "afraid of losing my job".

Nevers coach Xavier Pemeja was initially furious saying Raisuqe "will be punished" but calmed down.

"I spoke to him after the match. He's a kid in his head," the coach said the next day "he has to realise the stupidity he's done. I understand that it can make you laugh, but it doesn't make me laugh."

The LNR disciplinary committee did not see the funny side and punished the player for "action against a game official" and for "disrespecting the authority of an official".

The Fijian Sevens international has three tries in six matches this season.

He was axed by Stade Francais in 2017 following a sexual assault case on a night when he was celebrating his birthday. He received a six-month suspended sentence for the offence last year.

During the trial, the victim accused him of "violently and forcefully grabbing my breasts" as he left a Parisian nightclub.

One of his compatriots Waisea Nayacalevu - who still plays for Stade - was sentenced in January 2018 to 120 hours of community service for drunken violence against two of the victim's friends who tried to intervene following the attack.

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