Richards sets a poor example

COMMENTARY RUGBY UNION: England's captain puts on a virtuoso performanc e but one of his leading lieutenants faces a court martial
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It was a desperate day for at least one England player, possibly two, and neither of them was Will Carling. Dean Richards now has a date with the Leicestershire Rugby Union disciplinary panel and may well in consequence find himself forcibly removed from the England squad, an eventuality that nowadays can have serious financial implications.

Richards was in trouble while Leicester were beating Gloucester by a flatteringly conclusive 27-14 at Kingsholm. They were gratified to have recovered so soon from their defeat by Bath but more especially because in league rugby this has been one of the Tigers' least productive hunting- grounds. There, however, the gratification ended.

The Leicester captain, lately leading by bad example, received a yellow card for foul play for the second week running. The incidents that led to this punishment for Richards and, separately, Martin Johnson symbolised a periodically unpleasant affair and, in that many others were involved, they were ill-fated to be singled out.

Richards will have to defend, or at any rate explain, his conduct before his local disciplinarians and Tony Russ, Leicester's director of rugby, realises his England No8 will probably be suspended, though no date has yet been fixed for the hearing. Richards's next England engagement is tomorrow's training session at Marlow.

How embarrassing for him: two yellows, even in different games, now amounts cumulatively to a red. "This is a test case," Alan Wells, the Leicestershire RU secretary, said yesterday. "There are no precedents nor any procedure laid down, so potentially it's a minefield." Evidently, it is a problem he would rather not have.

Not that Russ - however much he may express disapproval of forward anarchy - would accept that Brian Campsall, or Tony Rowlands a week earlier for that matter, treated Richards justly. But if Leicestershire go with the more serious of the two offences, he could get a ban of as much as 60 days.

Last time it was stamping; this time Richards was done for punching after the referee had lectured all 16 forwards who had just been engaged in an all-in punch-up, a touch judge suggesting to Campsall that Richards had been the instigator.

For Leicester it was a case of retaliation or, put another way, helping a mate - neither of which would amount to any defence at a disciplinary hearing. Still, Russ intends to try, based on the contention that Neil Back was being raked and needed help.

"We will defend him in every way we can," Russ said. "We would want to show some video to try to show he was merely defending one of his own. When you have a mass brawl like that and one bloke is picked out it's pretty indefensible. When one of your own is being attacked you defend him, end of story."

One imagines Twickenham taking a dim view of Russ's spirited defence of foul play provided it has first been provoked, and if the powers-that- be wanted first-hand evidence they could ask their own technical director, Don Rutherford, who was present.

Yet as a Gloucester old boy, Rutherford was more concerned about giving the benefit of his wisdom to Richard Hill, the club's new coaching director, and as soon as the game was finished he handed over three pages of well- meant analytic advice. Right now Hill, England's 1991 World Cup scrum- half and more recently resigned as Bath's chairman of selectors, may feel he can use all the help he can get.

In the interests of learning to walk before trying to run, he intends adopting a step-by-step approach, the problem being that by the time he has taken all the necessary steps Gloucester might find they have lost an awful lot of ground. So for now Hill has to hope that others (Orrell and Saracens, preferably) struggle as Gloucester are, and if the Cherry- and-Whites can pick off Orrell next week, well and good.

Last week, his first with the club, Hill concentrated on the line-out and by Saturday had wrought a significant improvement. That was step one. Now that possession is being won, it is up to him to proceed to step two and find a means of using it.

Mind you, there would be something wrong if Gloucester, with ball-winners of the calibre of Dave Sims and Richard West, did not find the line-out a profitable source of supply and they caused Leicester - in particular Johnson - infinitely more inconvenience than Bath had.

Indeed if Martin Kimber had kicked the points that were available Gloucester would have had a decent half-time lead instead of turning round at 6-6. As it turned out, the chance had been lost and, besides, Leicester invariably looked the more dangerous on those precious occasions when opportunities occurred.

This was partly down to the extreme slowness with which the ball was presented to the Gloucester backs and partly to the dismal skills which they then applied to their attempts to use it. By contrast Leicester were models of slick efficiency but as this was purely relative it is not really much of a compliment.

Rory Underwood had withdrawn with flu and yet again the restrictive reality of tight opposition defence turned the much-vaunted Leicester wide game into a fanciful notion.

Eventually, the second half brought a short-range try by Back after he received a line-out ball which had been won by Matt Poole.

This was somehow typical, and so was the capacity for self-destruction - remember Adebayo's try for Bath - demonstrated in the intercepted Poole pass which set Paul Holford on a 100-yard dash to the far end. Leicester finally went clear as soon as they at last constructed a move of quality, leading to a try by Underwood's worthy replacement, Wayne Kilford.

It was a relatively small mercy but for the Tigers it sufficed. "There are very few players in the Leicester team who have ever won at Kingsholm," Russ said. "All in all, we are delighted to have won the warm-up, the match and the brawl." It's all right, he was only kidding and anyway by "delighted" he surely meant relieved.

Gloucester: Try Holford; Penalties Kimber 3. Leicester: Tries Back, Kilford; Conversion Liley; Penalties Liley 5.

Gloucester: T Smith; P Holford, D Caskie, M Roberts, L Osborne; M Kimber, B Fenley; A Powles, J Hawker, A Deacon, D Sims (capt), R West, P Glanville, C Raymond, I Smith.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, R Robinson, W Kilford; N Malone, J Hamilton; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, D Richards (capt), N Back (O Wingham, 39-h/t).

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).

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