Rugby star denies punching opponent

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The Independent Online
AN ENGLAND rugby player yesterday denied he had thrown a punch that broke a rival's jaw after losing his temper over 'persistent fouling' during a cub match.

Gary Rees, capped 23 times, told Kingston Crown Court that he had appeared to throw a punch only because taping his fingers together made them curl inwards. They were taped for protection because he had broken several fingers in his career, he said.

When he used a 'sweeping motion' to push a London Irish player, Stefan Marty, out of his way, prosecution witnesses who had given evidence mistakenly believed he had punched his rival. He said he had never retaliated in any rugby match, and added: 'I have never been cautioned, given a penalty away, or been sent off for anything.'

Mr Rees, 32, of Kegworth, Nottinghamshire, a flanker for Nottingham, denies causing Mr Marty grievous bodily harm. He said he had intended to knock Mr Marty to the ground but had not punched him and had not intended to injure him. He said he had hoped to 'create a situation' in order to draw the referee's attention to the repeated obstruction he had been forced to endure from his opponent.

David Jeremy, prosecuting, said: 'It must have been particularly galling for you, an international player, to have to put up with this behaviour from a second- team player as Stefan Marty was?'

'I didn't know that at the time,' Mr Rees replied. He agreed he had become 'frustrated' with Mr Marty's behaviour and said the referee had not appeared to notice what was going on.

Mr Jeremy said: 'The truth is that you had had enough, believing you were being fouled, so at a time when play had moved down the blindside, you took the chance to follow Stefan Marty and sort it out for yourself?' Mr Rees replied: 'No.'

A doctor told the court that considerable force must have been used to inflict the injuries.

The trial continues today.

(Photograph omitted)