Rugby Union: Ubogu takes legal advice as Woodward attacks Exiles

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The Independent Online
Victor Ubogu, the Bath prop wrongly cited by London Scottish following last Saturday's gruesome attack on Simon Fenn, was exploring avenues of legal redress while Clive Woodward, the England coach, gave the Exiles both barrels for their "poor handling" of the episode. Chris Hewett weighs up another busy day on the ear-biting front.

"My name is my passport," said a thoroughly cheesed-off Victor Ubogu yesterday. Thanks to the decision of London Scottish to link him with the now notorious bite on Simon Fenn's left ear during last weekend's cup match at the Recreation Ground, the England prop now feels his passport would be more legitimate if it had the name "Ronnie Biggs" stamped all over it.

Ubogu, a scrupulously law-abiding tight-head prop who boasts an untarnished disciplinary record, was taking legal advice after being cited by the Exiles as part of Bath's front row. "The video clearly shows that there is absolutely no way I could have been involved, so why I was cited in the first place baffles me," he fumed. "The citing was totally unjustified.

"In the 20 years I have been playing rugby I have never been sent off. It's not in my character to be involved in the type of incident that took place at the weekend; I happen to think it has tarnished the game's image and I would never support such an act of foul play. I was horrified when London Scottish cited me and I feel it was defamatory to my character. Apart from anything else, I have a business to run."

Even though the Exiles have now accepted Ubogu's innocence - his fellow prop, Kevin Yates, was singled out by Bath for suspension pending further investigations and a disciplinary hearing - the row over the mass citing looked likely to rumble on. "It was very poorly handled," agreed Clive Woodward, the England coach. "Victor was the entire width of the front row away from the injured player. They might just as well have cited the Bath coach, who was sitting in the stand."

Woodward also spoke up on behalf of Yates, who had been selected for yesterday's England session at Bisham Abbey but diplomatically withdrew on Tuesday night. "No player or coach wants to be associated with anyone who is into ear-biting and what happened to Fenn was appalling, but Kevin has not been proved guilty of anything. He'll be a member of this squad until that changes.

"He's a good guy, a friend in a way, and I wouldn't have thought he had it in him to go around biting people. He phoned me on Tuesday and said: `I have to say to you that I didn't do it.' When a guy you know well insists on his innocence, it's a bit tough to tell him he's history."

Yesterday, Yates was referring all inquiries to his London-based solicitor, Eddie Parladorio. It was left to Tony Swift, the Bath chief executive, to react to criticism of the club's handling of the affair, notably from Don Foster, the city's Liberal Democrat MP. "There is no cover-up," Swift said. "I take it as a personal insult that anyone should suggest such a thing."

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