Rugby Union: Leonard lands 30-day ban for stamping

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The Independent Online
JASON LEONARD, England's most capped prop, was last night given a 30-day ban at a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing in London.

Leonard had been sent off for allegedly stamping during Harlequins' Allied Dunbar Premiership match at Northampton last weekend, but the hearing decided that his act was reckless and rather than wilful use of the boot and that he had connected with the chest of the opposing player Budge Pountney and not his head.

The suspension runs from 13 September and means that Leonard, who has won 63 caps since his debut against Argentina at the beginning of the decade, will be available and match fit for England's World Cup qualifier against the Netherlands on 14 November at Huddersfield.

The sentence is something of a let-off for Leonard, who had been expected to suffer the International Board's recommended 42-day ban, and there was even talk that he would be out for up to 60 days, which would have ruled him out of the World Cup qualifier.

Leonard has been involved in controversial incidents on two previous occasions. The most recent was during last season's Five Nations' Championship against France in Paris, when it was alleged that Leonard was guilty of some illegal footwork on the French flanker Thomas Lievremont, who was eventually forced out of the match with fractured ribs. After support from England's coach, Clive Woodward, the French seemed content to drop the charges.

Two years earlier, in the 1996 Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield, Leonard was accused of punching Rob Wainwright leaving the Scotland captain concussed for much of the match. Leonard was spared punishment because the video evidence was inconclusive.

There are tremors in the vicinity of Cardiff Arms Park as the Millennium Stadium, which will be the focus for the 1999 Rugby World Cup to be hosted by the Welsh Rugby Union, begins to take shape. The fate of the largest sporting construction project in this country for the last 75 years would appear to lie in the hands of Cardiff County Council.

Laing, the company in charge of the pounds 121m project, has warned that unless work can continue round the clock it cannot guarantee to meet the completion date, set at 16 June 1999. An application by Laing for 24-hour working has been deferred by the council until 30 September to allow more consultation with the public; residents in neighbouring Westgate Street are fearful that their lives will be disrupted by all-night working, although Laing have offered to install secondary glazing to reduce the noise. The 72,500- seater stadium is due to stage its first match, between Wales and South Africa, on 26 June next year.

Time is running out for one or two injured players currently battling against injury. Richmond's captain, Ben Clarke, who damaged his left shoulder against Gloucester last week, misses a return to his old stamping ground at Bath after failing to recover in time. Scott Quinnell is set for a return although John Kingston, Richmond's director of rugby, is not naming his side until tomorrow and there are signs that changes may be made following last week's defeat at their new home in Reading.

Bath's stand-in captain, Phil de Glanville, who has led the side in their opening two Allied Dunbar Premiership matches, finds himself dropped to the bench for the match. The former England captain's place goes to the Ireland international Kevin Maggs, signed from Bristol in the summer. The flanker Ben Sturnham, signed from Saracens in the summer, is moved up to the second row with Nigel Redman.

Another former captain in the news is Lawrence Dallaglio. He is ready to make a long-awaited return for Wasps at London Irish tomorrow after making a complete recovery from a shoulder injury.