Richards banned for 14 days

Rugby Union
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Rugby Union

DAVID LLEWELLYN

Dean Richards last night criticised the system that got him banned for two weeks after he became the first victim of the Rugby Football Union's new totting-up procedure. The England No 8 was required to appear before the Leicestershire disciplinary committee after being shown two yellow cards in successive weeks.

After a two-hour hearing at the Tigers' ground Richards emerged to say: "I do not like the yellow card system. I did not welcome it when it came in and I don't welcome it now. And that is not sour grapes. I think something else should be brought in, probably something like the soccer system."

Richards was shown his first yellow card for stamping during Leicester's defeat at home to League leaders Bath. His second was brandished a week later when he was spotted by a linesman punching a Gloucester player in the Tigers' victory at Kingsholm. If Richards had been sent off for either offence he would have been subject to a 60-day ban for the stamping and a 30-day suspension for throwing the punch. Under the new rules, two yellow cards are the equivalent of a red card and Richards' hearing was a test case.

The Leicester captain added: "I am very disappointed, but I have to accept it. I thought the people who heard me were in an extremely difficult situation. As far as England are concerned obviously it is not going to do me any good, but I will just have to wait to see what happens."

The suspension which starts today rules Richards out of Leicester's home match against Orrell tomorrow and Wasps away next week, but he will be available for the Bristol game at the end of the month. Richards, a police constable, has the right of appeal against the sentence and he said: " I will be sleeping on it and making a decision over the weekend."

Tony Russ, Leicester's director of rugby, backed Richards saying: "I'm really very, very disappointed. I thought the committee had an extremely hard job to do because they are interpreting a whole new situation with minimal guidelines from the RFU. I don't think they were given the right information and to treat two yellow cards as a red is a complete nonsense."

The RFU meanwhile is poised to abandon the current 120-day qualification period which players in the top two Divisions of the Courage League are obliged to serve when they register with a new club. A commission set up the Rugby Football Union is due to publish its report at the end of the month and informed sources say that the four-month restriction could be abolished altogether.

That means Rob Andrew could be be playing for Newcastle before Christmas. The England stand-off, who was appointed Newcastle's director of rugby development three weeks ago, is at present serving out his time with Wasps and was not expected in the North-east until late in January.

But Andrew, England's most capped stand-off, may have to wait a little longer than the rumours suggest, since the commission's report, which will also make recommendations about the lower divisions' 60-day period as well as discussing the current moratorium on professionalism, has to go before the RFU's executive committee and thence to the full committee.

The sticking point will be when the qualification period will be abandoned. There will be arguments to retain it until the end of the season, but realistically, if pressure is brought to bear and the RFU expedite things, the end of November could be the watershed when a torrent of players may well take advantage of a little piece of rugby history.

The Llanelli lock Tony Copsey, banned for 10 weeks by the Welsh for breaking the cheekbone of the Cardiff centre Mike Hall, will not play again until 30 December. The League leaders, Llanelli, dropped him for last week's match against Aberavon and he is not being considered for tomorrow's visit of Newbridge either.

The Gloucester captain, Dave Sims, turned professional yesterday when he was appointed full-time development officer of the club. Bath meanwhile have recalled England prop Victor Ubogu for their match against Bristol, a week after dropping him for not being fit or committed enough. Ubogu has been doing a week's intensive training at Bath University where the club's fitness adviser, Ged Roddy, has been working with him.

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