Rugby Union: Popplewell punished

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The Independent Online
Little more than a week ago, Nick Popplewell was hoping for a place in the Lions party for this summer's tour of South Africa. Sadly for the Irishman he has been forced to limit his ambitions somewhat since then: far from walking all over sundry Springboks on the big stages of Newlands and Ellis Park, he will spend the foreseeable future walking on eggshells instead.

The unholy fuss surrounding the perfectly delivered but all too public haymaker with which Popplewell poleaxed Scott Murray of Bedford on Saturday gathered fresh momentum yesterday when Newcastle announced their decision to fine their loose head an unspecified amount - a week's wages of around pounds 1,000 was the educated guess - and reinforce that punishment with a severe reprimand. Popplewell may not have made the cut for the Lions but he is available for the Geordies' crucial Courage League promotion match with Coventry this weekend.

All of which left Bedford distinctly underwhelmed. "The punishment would hardly appear to fit the crime, especially as the punch could have endangered not only a young man's sight but also his whole future in the game," said the Second Division promotion candidates in an official statement. "It is disappointing that there does not appear to have been any expression of remorse from Newcastle. The incident has been condemned by many as a sending-off offence and, therefore, worthy of a suspension."

Popplewell was given a yellow card by Steve Lander, the referee, for punching Murray and cannot now be subjected to any disciplinary action by the Rugby Football Union.

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