Rugby Union: No escape for Ubogu over rebel red card

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The Independent Online
IT TOOK them the best part of 48 hours to wake up to the fact, but Bath have finally been made to realise that Victor Ubogu, their 17st international prop, is far too big an item to sweep under the carpet. Ubogu will indeed have to answer to the Rugby Football Union for his sending- off at Cardiff on Tuesday night, despite a brazen attempt by the West Country club's officials to deal - or, rather, not deal - with the matter themselves.

Francis Baron, the new RFU chief executive, was quick on the draw yesterday as he set about dealing with the first itchy problem of his tenure. "This disciplinary matter clearly comes under our jurisdiction," he said, confirming that the union would ask the match referee, Alun Ware, for a full report on Ubogu's alleged outburst of red-cardable verbal abuse. "It is very important that any English player is disciplined, irrespective of the nature of the match, if appropriate."

All of which leaves Ubogu facing the possibility of a 120-day ban, something that would leave his club in a considerable degree of strife owing to their shortage of specialist prop forwards. Bath officials insist Ubogu said nothing to the referee - privately, they claim his dismissal was a case of mistaken identity - and have pledged to fight his corner.

This latest disciplinary wrangle - the third involving a Bath player in the space of 10 months - is complicated by the fact that the Cardiff- Bath game was a "rebel" affair, unsanctioned by either the English or Welsh governing body. To add to the confusion, Ware's odd status as a kind of unofficial official - he refereed against the wishes of both governing bodies - left him feeling under no obligation to file a report to anyone.

He attended a meeting of Bath and Cardiff officials after the game and agreed that no further action should be taken against Ubogu. The authorities, however, are adamant that he should not have agreed any such thing and according to Baron, the RFU will pursue the matter to its end. "If the report is not forthcoming," he said, "the union will proceed with an inquiry."

Meanwhile, Andy Robinson, the Bath coach, called on both unions to "get together and sort this refereeing business out". Given that the clubs were playing the game in open defiance of their lords and masters, it smacked just a little of Robinson both wanting his cake and eating it.

Still, the former England flanker had a point of sorts. "I'm not blaming the referee in the sense that he did his best, but he wasn't up to it," he said. "It was dangerous. People could have been injured. If I were Clive Woodward or Graham Henry [the respective national coaches] I wouldn't want my players playing in such an environment."

Another disciplinary issue reached a swift conclusion yesterday when a European Cup tribunal threw out a citing against Hugues Miorin, the Toulouse lock. Edinburgh Reivers officials had accused Miorin of an off- the-ball assault on Matthew Proudfoot, their prop, during a match at Easter Road almost a fortnight ago, but much of the Scots' video and television evidence was deemed inadmissable.

Sadly, the career of Stuart Davies, the long-serving Swansea and Wales No 8, has also been concluded. Davies was forced into immediate retirement on medical grounds following a neck injury suffered in the Five Nations international with France last April.