Rugby Union: French still have Leonard on their mind

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The Independent Online
By Chris Hewett

JASON LEONARD looks a stone-cold certainty to win his 61st cap against Wales this weekend, despite the fact that the French are still on his disciplinary case. The Tricolores were adam-ant yesterday that footage of Leonard trampling on Thomas Lievremont, the Perpignan No 8, was in the mail. However, the alleged evidence was fast taking on the mythical proportions of Billy Bunter's postal order.

England were due to name their side this morning and Clive Woodward, the national coach, insisted he had yet to identify anything on the tape of the Five Nations opener in Paris 11 days ago to justify his taking action against Leonard. The French have accused the 29-year-old Harlequin of breaking Lievremont's ribs with a deliberate stamp, but Woodward commented yesterday: "I cannot see the problem.

"I would take action if necessary; I took steps when Martin Johnson was shown to have thrown a punch in the All Blacks game before Christmas. But I am not in favour of citing for things in the heat of battle."

If Woodward was concerned about the state of anyone's ribcage, it belonged to Lawrence Dallaglio. The England captain admitted yesterday that his popped rib cartilage was still causing discomfort and confirmed that he would not contemplate facing the Welsh unless declared 100 per cent fit.

But he added: "What makes me sore is the fact that I've been written off by critics, who seem to know more about my current state and chances of recovery than I do. My injury is improving daily and if that continues, I will take a full part in training towards the end of the week and then play against Wales."

The Welsh were fretting over Arwel Thomas, their outside-half from Swansea. Thomas bruised his right knee at the weekend against Llanelli and said: "It's touch and go. Everything depends on how long the management are prepared to give me."