RUGBY UNION; Quinnell's appeal confusion

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The Independent Online
RUGBY'S DISCIPLINARIANS were in an advanced state of knicker-twisting confusion yesterday as the Scott Quinnell affair continued to reverberate around the committee rooms of England and Wales. Twickenham officials belatedly agreed that the Richmond No 8, currently three days into a two-week suspension for late-tackling Lawrence Dallaglio during a Premiership match last month, could continue playing pending an appeal. However, they were none too sure whether their ban ruled the player out of international competition - namely, the Wales- South Africa Test at Wembley on Saturday week.

"We're not sure how this suspension affects his immediate international status," said a Rugby Football Union spokesman. "It's a matter for the International Rugby Board, so you'll have to ask them."

Given that another Welsh loose forward, Nathan Thomas of Bath, turned out for his country against Romania 14 months ago while serving a suspension imposed by his club, the Welsh were temporarily beside themselves with joy.

However, IRB regulations are unusually clear in this respect. Rule 19.5 says: "If a player is suspended by his union or appropriate disciplinary body" - that is to say, banned by anyone with wider powers than his own club - "he may not play the game anywhere during the period of suspension." According to that edict, any punishment dished out by the RFU covers all rugby up to and including Tests.

All the same, hope springs eternal for Quinnell. Richmond, quietly furious over the guilty verdict passed on Quinnell on Monday night, indicated yesterday that an appeal would be lodged without further ado; a move that would enable them to field their influential back-row bruiser at Saracens on Sunday. It would clearly be in Welsh interests to delay the hearing of the appeal for as long as possible. "The year 2000 should do it," said Graham Henry, the national coach, only half-jokingly. "Then we could play Scott against the Boks and throughout the 1999 World Cup as well."

Henry was confident of a successful appeal but then, he was confident of a Quinnell acquittal on Monday evening. "I think he can feel pretty hard done by, frankly," said the New Zealander in Cardiff yesterday. "Scott is a No 8 of world-class potential and all this business is an obvious blow to us.

"If he can't play we're going to have to lump it; Colin Charvis will move to No 8 and he'll do a good job, even though he much prefers it on the flank. Hopefully, though, Scott will get a favourable result. The law of averages says that things are bound to come up trumps sooner or later."

Whatever the outcome, the IRB is likely to come under intense pressure to modernise the disciplinary regulations. In football, club suspensions do not impact on international selections and vice versa, as Liverpool's Paul Ince is publicly demonstrating at the moment. Under the current rules, an Allied Dunbar Premiership player could be sent off next May, pick up a three-month ban and be unavailable to England for the World Cup the following autumn.

Meanwhile, Wayne Proctor intends to prove his fitness to Henry by returning to the Llanelli wing in Friday night's European Cup match against Leinster at Donnybrook. Proctor missed his club's monumental victory over Stade Francais at Stradey Park last weekend.