Rugby Union: Colomiers threaten court action over banned prop

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THE HEINEKEN Cup may just be simmering on the pitch as crunch time arrives for many clubs, but it is threatening to boil over off it. Colomiers are considering taking European Rugby Cup, the competition organisers, to court over the two-year ban imposed on Richard Nones for alleged gouging against Pontypridd last month.

The club is fuming over the length of the prop's ban, which sftalso applies to the French Championship. An appeal against Nones' sentence was turned down in Edinburgh this week, leaving the French talking of a touch judge contradicting himself and of inconclusive video footage.

Maurice Guibert, Colomiers' director of administration, said: "We will take this case to court and to the administrative tribunal. Richard must play in the French Championship."

In the past, when clubs have queried the imposition of a regulation by the French Rugby Federation they have taken their objections to the administrative tribunal, at which point the FFR has usually backed down or settled the dispute amicably outside court.

Things are not much better on the pitch for Colomiers. Their captain and scrum-half, Fabien Galthie, who had such a great World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, has been ruled out of today's Pool 4 match at home to Munster because of a groin injury, his place goes to Fabrice Culinat.

In Pool 5 at The Stoop, Harlequins will come face to face with one of their old players when Johnny Ngaumo, the former Auckland Blues centre, flies in with the Pool leaders, Montferrand, who are unbeaten in their opening two matches.

Ngaumo had to leave Quins because of the two overseas players rule but has quickly established himself at Montferrand. The French club can also boast a clutch of internationals including the Scotland tighthead prop, Paul Burnell and France's Olivier Magne.

For their part Harlequins have been hit by a rash of injuries to front- row personnel, so Paul Graham comes in at tighthead for David Barnes (ankle). Kevin Nepia has another calf injury so Ramin Mathieson, the Scotland Under-21 cap, is on the bench. He will be in exalted company, since the former England captain Will Carling will also be gathering splinters having made a full recovery from last week's food poisoning.

Northampton take on a close to full strength Edinburgh Reivers side led by fly-half Graham Shiel and featuring the Heineken Cup's joint leading try scorer Conan Sharman, who has four touchdowns to his name, as has the Toulouse wing Emile Ntamack.

But Saints, for whom Argentina international front-row forward, Frederico Mendez, will be on the bench for the first time this season after several months out with an Achilles tendon injury, look too strong up front for the Scots, though the unbeaten Edinburgh lead Pool 6.

The expected glut of possession will be ammunition to load a potent set of backs - who have both pace and power - from Matt Dawson at scrum-half, out to Jon Sleightholme and Ben Cohen on the wings, and England's Nick Beal at full-back.

There is also the not inconsiderable matter of Paul Grayson, who needs just one successful kick to become the club's highest points scorer. He is at present on 1,466 together with Saints' former England international Roger Hosen.

"This is the most important game of the season for us," John Steele, Northampton's director of rugby, said. "Our form has shown good performances by the forwards and back line on different occasions. However, last week against Bedford showed an excellent all-round team performance."

Wasps, the only English side with a 100 per cent record in the tournament, travel to France to take on Bourgoin in another major test of credentials. The Scotland wing, Kenny Logan, said, however: "They are supposed to be very strong at home, but we feel confident."

Tomorrow Saracens, who have lost both their Pool 4 matches, take on Pontypridd at Vicarage Road in a must win match, while Leicester travel to Glasgow to play a Caledonians side boasting five members of the Scotland World Cup squad.