Back's push to be viewed by RFU panel

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The Independent Online
Neil Back's punishment for pushing the referee to the ground at the end of Saturday's Pilkington Cup final is to be decided tomorrow at a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel of three, probably consisting of Robert Horner, the referees' committee chairman, Steve Griffiths, the national referees' officer, and Don Rutherford, the RFU's technical director, writes Steve Bale.

After the match, won 16-15 by Bath after Steve Lander's last-minute award of a penalty try, everyone on the Leicester side, like the Wirral official himself, was playing down the significance of the Back incident - which the flanker claimed to have occurred because he misidentified the referee as his Bath opposite number, Andy Robinson.

However, with yesterday's RFU decision to view the video recording it is clear that Back's version is not necessarily going to be accepted. One can only imagine what the penalty might be for manhandling an official. A Redruth player dealt with by the Cornish disciplinary committee for verbal abuse of a referee last season received a 12-month suspension reduced on appeal to 31 weeks. Also in Cornwall, six years ago a player was banned for life for striking a referee.

Despite the damning prima facie evidence Back, 27, who has five England caps, is confident his innocence will be accepted by the RFU, as it was by the referee. "As far as I'm concerned, there wasn't an incident and I'm not aware that there should be any problem. I didn't realise the game had ended. I ran in to join the other forwards and believed I was giving Robinson - offside again - a push to clear the way."

Back also complained that the referee's black-and-white shirt had made him difficult to discern. But not withstanding his profession of innocence, it is stretching credulity to imagine the blond, clean-shaven, mainly white-jerseyed Robinson could be taken for the brunette, moustachioed, chessboard-jerseyed Lander.