Milan - An Argentinian rugby player who inexplicably tackled a female referee from behind during an Italian league game has been banned for three years, the Italian rugby federation (FIR) announced on Thursday.
Bruno Andres Doglioli, captain of Serie A side Rangers Rugby Vicenza, violently tackled referee Maria Beatrice Benvenuti in an off-the-ball incident which left the 23-year-old official with whiplash.
Immediately after the incident, which earned Doglioli a yellow card and a spell in the sinbin, Benvenuti got up to finish refereeing the game against Valsugana Padua.
Condemning "a deliberate act of violence towards the match referee," the FIR said in a statement Doglioli had been banned "from playing any competitive sport for three years".
The 33-year-old South American player had already been suspended by his club midweek.
"The Italian Rugby Federation would like to reiterate that this sanction -- the heaviest in the last 20 years -- underlines that when it comes to infringing the rules of the game and, above all, the fundamental values of our sport, we will show zero tolerance," the FIR said.
"It also underlines the FIR's firm stance against those who abuse, verbally or physically, match officials."