Rugby Union: Yates' legal team pushes for delay in ear-biting hearing

Lawyers representing Kevin Yates, the Bath prop suspended pending further investigations into last weekend's ear-biting scandal, are attempting to delay next week's eagerly awaited disciplinary hearing.

Chris Hewett says that whatever the timing, the West Country club are determined to get at the truth.

The barrack room lawyers who inhabit every rugby clubhouse in the land may have to wait longer than they think for a solution to the Great Bath Ear-Biting Mystery. The legal team representing the prime suspect, Kevin Yates, say they have been given insufficient time to prepare their defence and are pushing for a postponement of the internal hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Yates, the 26-year-old loose-head prop capped twice by England in Argentina last summer, was one of three Bath front-rowers cited for foul play by London Scottish after Simon Fenn, the Exiles' flanker, suffered a serious injury to his left ear during a cup tie at the Recreation Ground a week ago. Yates' fellow prop, Victor Ubogu, was cleared by Scottish on Wednesday and yesterday, the same officials publicly exonerated Federico Mendez, the third member of the triumvirate.

If the Londoners expected Bath to greet the news with a fanfare of trumpets, they were mistaken. "It is up to them to decide if apologies are in order," said Tony Swift, the Bath chief executive. "I've no idea why they felt the need to cite all three players. We've collected evidence from both sides and there has not been a mention of either Mendez or Ubogu, but we're not prepared to get into a slanging match over it. This is not a game to be won, a competition to see who can issue the best press release.

"I can only describe the last few days as horrific. People have been baying for action and believe me, I would love to get to the truth of the matter, get it sorted and get on with running this rugby club. However, it's going to be far more difficult to reach that stage than anyone imagined in the two or three days following the alleged incident. I promise you, it's not an easy situation."

The tribunal will be chaired by an independent legal expert and made up of two club directors, neither of whom will have been involved in the investigation, and two club members, almost certainly players, of his own choosing.

London Scottish said in a statement that Fenn is making a good recovery under the circumstances "but has suffered a temporary loss of hearing in his left ear. Understandably, he has been further upset and depressed by the outrageous comments made by Philip Bliss."

Bliss, honorary surgeon to the Bath club but not one of the medical staff on duty last week, suggested that Fenn's injuries might not have been caused by a bite. Yesterday, Swift continued to distance the club from their own medic's point of view.

The unions of France, Scotland, Ireland and Wales confirmed in Paris yesterday that Italy should be invited to participate in the championship from 1999-2000. The Rugby Football Union will make their decision at their next council meeting on 20 February.

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