Rugby Union: Blazers banish Exiles' Rodgers

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The Independent Online
FRONT-ROW FORWARDS do not take naturally to life on the high wire, especially when they weigh 17 stones plus, but rugged customers like Pieter Rodgers now know they will walk a tightrope every time they take the field, writes Chris Hewett.

London Irish's former Springbok prop is the first victim of the Rugby Football Union's laughably misconceived attempt to clean up a domestic club game that was virtually Persil white in the first place. Rodgers, a close season recruit from the Transvaal, picked up a one-match ban on Thursday night after committing two sin-bin offences during the Exiles' opening Premiership game at Gloucester.

Unlike Jason Leonard, banned for 30 days at the same sitting for stamping on Northampton's Budge Pountney, Rodgers was not convicted of a capital crime. Yet while the RFU's disciplinary panel openly admitted that his misdemeanours were purely technical in nature, they could not bring themselves to view his dismissal as sufficient punishment.

Rodgers, ruled out of today's home game with Wasps, will not be alone in missing out on the odd win bonus; almost a dozen players have already paid one visit to the bin and a total of three will earn them an automatic suspension. Referees insist they are not dishing out white cards like so much confetti, but players and coaches are not so sure. "I can see nonsense ahead," Dick Best, the London Irish coach, said. "We need some common sense."

Bath would settle for a common-sense performance after throwing away two priceless points at Newcastle last Saturday. The fallen giants take on Richmond at the Recreation Ground with a reshaped pack featuring Ben Sturnham in the second row. If they fail to subdue a visiting outfit shorn of Ben Clarke, they can look forward to another season of domestic under- achievement.

Leicester, once the only club capable of costing Bath a moment's sleep, have started rather better and go into today's derby with Northampton at the head of the pile. Matt Dawson's dodgy hamstring deprives the Saints of their most reliable performer, but Graham Rowntree, Leicester's England prop, expects a full-on affair. "It's our first big test," he said. "Harlequins and London Scottish weren't really up for it. Northampton will be."