Jury out in rugby player assault trial

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The Independent Online

The jury in the trial of England rugby star Lesley Vainikolo - who fractured a fan's skull on a players' night out - retired to consider its verdict today.

Vainikolo, 30, punched Jake Alicker once to the head a short distance from the Second Bridge nightclub in Bath in the early hours of October 26 last year, Bristol Crown Court heard.

The Gloucester RFC player, who lives in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was subsequently charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm (GBH), to which he previously pleaded not guilty.

Mr Alicker told Bristol Crown Court he had only a "flash image" of a fist in front of his face before waking up in Royal United Hospital, Bath.

But Vainikolo, who accepts he threw the punch, has claimed he acted in self-defence, protecting himself following aggressive taunts from Mr Alicker and his friend, Luke Weaver.

The jury retired to consider its verdict at 11.45am this morning, after Judge Mark Horton summed up the trial's evidence.

Father-of-one Vainikolo, who has been supported in court by his wife Sienna throughout the trial, was out of action most of last season after undergoing surgery on a ruptured Achilles tendon.

But he told the court he was now match-fit and ready for selection.

The 6ft 2in, 17.5st player made his England debut in last year's RBS 6 Nations tournament.

The former Bradford Bulls rugby league player won five England caps after becoming eligible through his residency in the UK.