Points penalty for Llanelli

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The Independent Online
LLANELLI have dropped out of the top half of the Heineken League for the first time in over four years after being docked two Heineken League points for breaking the regulations regarding the size of their squad. And the Scarlets now look almost certain to miss out on a plum fixure against the touring Fijians next autumn.

The penalty, though not as severe as first mooted, nevertheless sends the struggling Scarlets down into the bottom half of the table, two points above the relegation zone.

It leaves them in eighth place on eight points from 11 fixtures and, with only the top four finishers gaining matches against the Fijians next October, Stradey Park looks almost certain to be a rare absentee from a tour schedule.

On the domestic front, Rupert Moon's team, winners of the league title 20 months ago, now find themselves more concerned with First Division survival instead of chasing prizes. They are now level with Abertillery and Newbridge, two points above Pontypooland Newport, though their superior try count gives them a valuable cushion.

Llanelli fell foul of the Welsh Rugby Union by failing to run a recognised second-team fixture list while still carrying a 37-player squad, five more than permitted. They have since trimmed the squad to the allowed 32. The former Wales flanker, Mark Per e go, who has walked away from the game yet again, is among the casualties.

"Llanelli have broken the rules so they have been docked two points," Vernon Pugh, the WRU chairman, said. "Two-points was the recommendation that came from the League management committee and that was accepted by the general committee. They had their appeal in that they were allowed to make representations to the League management.

"The League management looked at the case pretty thoroughly and were satisfied Llanelli had not complied with the rules and that, for five to six weeks, they were playing with an advantage over other clubs. This is the first year we have had these rules and we did not want to take Draconian measures.''