Rugby Union: Grewcock wrangle

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The Independent Online
DANNY GREWCOCK will always carry the stigma of his sending-off after 30 minutes of England's grisly skirmish with the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday; he is, after all, only the second Englishman to be dismissed in 127 years of Test rugby. But he may escape at least part of the five- week suspension meted out by a three-man disciplinary panel chaired by Terry Willis, an Australian lawyer and compatriot of the tourists' No 1 bogeyman, Wayne Erickson.

England, who will consider an appeal against the severity of Grewcock's sentence, were even less impressed with Ercikson yesterday than they had been 24 hours earlier. The Sydney-based referee's decision to point Grewcock towards the tunnel for aiming a toe-poke at the head of Anton Oliver, the All Black hooker, was compounded by his extraordinarily liberal attitude towards a far more dangerous piece of footwork perpetrated by Ian Jones, the New Zealand lock.

Jones was cleared of stamping on the face of Graham Rowntree, the England prop, in the ninth minute of New Zealand's 64-22 victory, even though the television footage could hardly have been more damning. Erickson, who had missed the "live" incident, advised the panel that Jones' action constituted legitimate rucking rather than anything more sinister.

"I'll allow you to make up your own minds," said Roger Uttley, the England manager. "We're waiting to read the full judicial report of the disciplinary hearing before deciding on any appeal, but I will say that inconsistencies do appear to be at work here. The Jones incident involved a boot on the head, no question. The point at issue is whether Jones was rucking, stamping or kicking."

Grewcock was said to be "distressed and upset" by the punishment, which rules him out of the remainder of the tour - no bad thing, some might say - and the first three weeks of the new domestic season, which is scheduled to begin in September. Jones, banned during the recent Super 12 tournament for what was euphemistically described as "misuse of the boot", is free to face England in Auckland on Saturday. The tourists are not in the least amused.

The All Blacks have made one enforced change to the side that started at Carisbrook, Todd Blackadder replacing the concussed Michael Jones as blind-side flanker. Isitolo Maka, a hugely impressive figure in the New Zealand Academy's victory over England at Invercargill last Wednesday, is promoted to the bench.

Meanwhile, Clive Woodward, the England coach, is on his way home to Berkshire following the death of his father on Saturday. He hopes to be back in New Zealand in time for the Auckland Test.