Rugby Union: Heineken Cup - Cardiff's Rees banned for 90 days

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The Independent Online
Tony Rees, the Cardiff lock, was handed the Heineken Cup's longest ban to date - 90 days - at a European Rugby Cup board meeting in Dublin yesterday.

Roger Pickering, the tournament director, said that the 32-year-old Rees had been found guilty of "wilfully kicking an opponent". Rees was cited by Harlequins after a stamping incident during last week's match which left their lock Gareth Llewellyn with a cut face.

Rees' ban rules him out of today's game at Munster where the Welsh club's Heineken Cup life is on the line. Lose this one and Cardiff - finalists in the inaugural competition two seasons ago - are out, which is possibly why they have recalled Robert Howley.

Scrum-half Howley suffered a severe shoulder injury, described by his surgeon Geoff Graham as being as bad as it gets, on the Lions tour of South Africa in the summer. Howley was not expected to return for at least another seven days, and even then he was not expected to be thrust into first-team duties for a little while longer.

"I am now back to full contact sessions. I don't mind at all that I'll be stepping straight into a full-blown cup game at Munster," Howley said yesterday. "I've never been a great believer in having a run-out in friendlies, or second XV matches."

Howley will be partnered at half-back by the competition's leading scorer, Lee Jarvis, who has notched up 54 points in three games. Cardiff are already resigned to being second best in the Pool D, but that should still be enough to qualify them for the lucrative knock-out stages.

Munster hope to be at full strength, however, they await fitness updates on the centre Mike Lynch and the winger Anthony Horgan.

The Pool C encounter at Sardis Road should see Pontypool and Brive focusing very hard on the ball, if they have any sense at all that is.

Brive are still without the scrum-half Philippe Carbonneau, who was involved in the on and off-field violence which marred the first meeting with Ponty. Injuries alleged to have been sustained in the post-match bar brawl are being cited as the reason for Carbonneau's continued absence.

David Venditti, however, is back in the centre. Venditti required hospital treatment for a bitten finger after the saloon fracas, while Christophe Lamaison, who is alleged to have sustained a broken nose in the same incident, sits on the replacements' bench. For Ponty, Phil John faces a late fitness test, while Matt Lloyd comes in at No 8 for the suspended Dale McIntosh.

Scottish Borders, perhaps out of desperation, have an unusual centre pairing for what would appear to be the long trip on a hiding to nothing at Bath in the other Pool C match. Craig Chalmers, the Scotland stand- off, is joined by the international wing Tony Stanger. Both teams have 100 per cent records, Bath have won all three of their matches; unfortunately Borders have run up three defeats.

One man who will not be in action today is the former England captain Will Carling. Harlequins have allowed him to miss their tie at Bourgoin in order to attend the birth of his first child. The Quins flanker, Laurent Cabannes, who went off with what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury during the victory at Cardiff, has been passed fit.

Leicester have rested the prop Graham Rowntree and the Fijian full-back Waisale Serevi for the visit of Leinster in Pool A.