Brive to contest Lamaison ban

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The Independent Online
It is becoming the most talked about shoulder charge since JPR Williams secured a Grand Slam for Wales by barging Jean-Francois Gourdon into the Arms Park advertising hoardings back in 1976. Christophe Lamaison's assault on Craig Chalmers 12 days ago landed the victim in hospital, the perpetrator in hot water and now looks like landing the lawyers a bumper pay day.

The French reacted furiously yesterday to the 30-day ban imposed on Lamaison, the goal-kicking centre from Brive, by a Five Nations disciplinary tribunal. Officials of Brive, the European champions, went straight for the jugular by threatening court action.

"We will be talking to the French Federation and our lawyers," Laurent Seigne, the Brive coach, said. "Rugby is a professional sport now and we have to consider if this suspension does not constitute restraint of trade." Seigne was supported by his president, Patrick Sebastien, who said: "Surely this ban should be limited to international rugby."

Ironically, Lamaison will be available for his country's next international, against Romania on 1 June. His suspension rebounds purely on Brive, who must do without their most dependable source of points for four crucial domestic championship matches.

The board of the European Rugby Cup are meeting in Dublin today to present the accounts of this season's wildly successful Heineken Cup. Rumours of French and English discontent over both the financial handling of the tournament and its long-term future were dismissed yesterday by Roger Pickering, the ERC director, who denied the existence of any move by the Welsh, Scots and Irish to expand the competition into a season-long league. Fears of an Anglo-French breakaway receded when Michel Palmie, one of the French delegates, said he would be offering his full support to next season's 20-team format.

In South Africa, massive public interest in the first match of this summer's Lions tour in Port Elizabeth has forced the organisers to abandon plans to host it at a township ground just outside the city. The game with an Eastern Province Invitation XV will now take place at the Boet Erasmus Stadium, a 35,000-seater Test venue, on 24 May.