Rugby Union: Quinnell ban shocks Dallaglio

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The Independent Online
WALES AND Richmond, dismayed at the 14-day ban on Scott Quinnell, might have been better served had they called Lawrence Dallaglio as a witness for the defence.

Yesterday Dallaglio, the England captain and the recipient of Quinnell's "late and dangerous tackle" during the Wasps-Richmond match at Loftus Road 16 days ago, said: "The decision was made by the referee, Brian Campsall, and was completely out of my hands." However, Dallaglio added: "I have seen white cards issued for the same offences rather than red."

In other words Dallaglio does not believe it was a sending-off offence. He also questioned the delay in dealing with the matter. "The procedure varies from one country to the next," he said. "There should be a universal way of dealing with these matters and the hearings should take place as quickly as possible."

Quinnell appeared before a Rugby Football Union three-man disciplinary panel, chaired by Bob Rogers, at the East India Club on Monday night. Richmond, who called the Wales coach, Graham Henry, as an eyewitness, were confident, particularly on the video evidence, that Quinnell would be exonerated.

Henry, a spectator at the match, claimed that the tackle was neither late nor dangerous but Campsall and his touch judge stuck to their guns.

Henry has a vested interest in the matter, because Quinnell is central to Wales' game plan against South Africa at Wembley on 14 November. If the two-week ban stands, Quinnell would miss not only the international - he would not be free to play again until 16 November - but also Richmond's Premiership match with Saracens this Sunday.

Richmond have 14 days in which to lodge an appeal and they will almost certainly do so before the weekend. This would free Quinnell, whose wife is unsettled in Surrey, to make his final appearance for Richmond on Sunday before rejoining Llanelli.

The issue is not as clear-cut regarding the international against the Springboks because International Board regulations differ from those of the RFU. However, Henry had a meeting with Vernon Pugh, the IB chairman, in Cardiff yesterday and the WRU is hopeful that, pending the appeal, Quinnell will also be free to play at Wembley.

The view of both Richmond and the WRU, which wants Quinnell to play in two important matches, is that natural justice was not observed at the East India Club. They argue that if Quinnell, who was sent off last season, was indeed guilty of the offence his punishment would have been far more severe. Their view is that in the light of Ben Sturnham recently being exonerated after being sent off while playing for Bath, the RFU was reluctant to let Quinnell off scot free.

Meanwhile, England go into the World Cup qualifiers against the Netherlands on 14 November and Italy on 22 November, both at Huddersfield, without the tight-head prop Phil Vickery. Vickery, who has a neck injury, has been advised to take a month off. England also have internationals against Australia at Twickenham on 28 November and South Africa on 5 December.

"By then we will know far more about where we are," Clive Woodward, the England coach, said. "These are massive games for us and we have the chance to get back on the rails."

Referring to England's whitewash in the southern hemisphere in the summer when he took a badly depleted squad on tour, Woodward said: "I will never forget it but we have to put it slightly aside. Some selections I've made have paid off, some haven't. I think we are heading in the right direction. In terms of fitness the clubs have done a great job with their players over the last 12 months. This is one area of club rugby that has been brilliant."

Woodward's unenviable task this weekend is to reduce his international squad from 36 to 26. Two key players, Will Greenwood, the Leicester centre, and David Rees, the Sale wing, who have been out for most of the season with injuries, will have to prove their fitness before the squad-pruning deadline on Monday.