Rugby Union: Club sticks by decision to sack prop

Click to follow
West Hartlepool have stood by their decision to sack the England Under-21 prop Virgil Hartland following alleged biting incidents in matches against Rotherham and Wakefield.

West's New Zealand coach, Mike Brewer, recommended that the Second Division club terminate Hartland's two-year contract for gross misconduct.

The move has been condemned by Hartland's agent, the former England prop Mike Burton, who has threatened legal action for what he termed "character assassination".

The England Under-21 manager, John Elliott, also questioned West's wisdom, but the Brierton Lane executive chairman, Andy Hindle, said the club would not change its stance towards Hartland.

"I have been astonished by the reaction of some senior people in the game," Hindle said. "This comes at a time when foul play is in the headlines following the Brive versus Pontypridd game, and yet we are being criticised for taking action."

West, relegated last season, have strengthened their squad by signing the Italian international second-row Mark Giacheri, a Super 12 performer with New South Wales. Another newcomer, the New Zealander Emerson Nikora, makes his debut in today's Allied Dunbar Premiership Two game at Exeter.

Bath and Wasps will provide almost half of England's Under-21 development squad. The 30-man group includes several players the England coach, Clive Woodward, has used in senior squad sessions at Bisham Abbey this season. The former England A coach, Keith Richardson, will take charge of the party.

ENGLAND UNDER-21 DEVELOPMENT SQUAD: D Alexopoulos, J Beardshaw (both Wasps), J Brown (Coventry), R Bryan (Bath), D Harris (Moseley), C Horsman (Bath), J Lewsey (Bristol), L Lloyd (Leicester), A Long (Bath), L Moody (Leicester), M Perry (Bath), P Sampson (Wasps), K Sorrell, D Thompson (both Saracens), M Wood (Wasps), R Beattie (Newcastle), T Butler (Leicester), P Buxton (Moseley), J Ewens (Bath), P Ogilvie (Saracens), R Pellow, J Pritchard (both Bath), P Richards (London Irish), J Winterbottom (Wasps), I Belshaw (Bath), L Best (Richmond), J Lofthouse (West Hartlepool), J Wilkinson (Newcastle), J Worsley (Wasps), M Worsley (Bristol).