Richards suspension threat

Rugby Union
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Dean Richards, England's No 8, will find out tonight whether he is to be the first player to be banned under the new totting-up procedure for yellow cards.

Richards, Leicester's captain, will be defended by his club when he appears before the Leicestershire disciplinary committee at Welford Road after receiving yellow cards in successive matches last month. The regulations mean that a player warned twice is treated as having been sent off.

Richards could be suspended and miss the Test against South Africa next month unless he can persuade the panel to treat him leniently.

Tony Russ, Leicester's director of coaching, said: "We are contesting this case vigorously. First of all, he was not sent off in either match. We are all in unknown territory."

Alan Wells, Leicestershire's secretary, who will oversee proceedings, said: "This is a test case and we will be establishing a precedent, so we need to be very judicious in our verdict."

The publicity before and certainly after Richards' case if he is suspended will act as a severe warning to thousands of players in England.

Richards' Leicester colleague Martin Johnson has also been given a yellow card and cannot afford another caution until next April.

The system is in contrast to football, where a player who repeatedly misbehaves can get away with half-a-dozen three-point bookings and still not be the subject of a disciplinary inquiry.

Richards was spotted by a touch judge using clumsy footwork at a ruck in the home match against Bath on 23 September and at Gloucester a week later another touchjudge alleged that he punched an opponent.

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