Rugby Union: Video may prompt Healey probe

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The Independent Online
AUSTIN HEALEY, otherwise known as the Leicester Lip, will discover later today whether the Rugby Football Union requires him to talk his way out of a potentially nasty disciplinary scrape arising from the Tigers' comfortable 31-10 Premiership victory over London Irish at Welford Road on Saturday.

The Exiles were examining television footage of an incident that left Kevin Putt, their New Zealand-born scrum-half and Healey's opposite number, in need of six stitches to a wound over his right eye. A reverse angle camera shot pinpointed Healey treading momentarily on Putt's face as the London Irish player lay on the floor near a 14th-minute ruck. Putt was not badly hurt - after five minutes of patching up, he continued for the remaining hour of the match - but there was a good deal of bitter resentment among the Irish players as they retreated down the M1.

Putt himself could hardly have been less judgemental. "With a face like mine, six stitches are unlikely to matter too much," he joked. "Seriously, there was a bit of hot blood around early in the game but I really can't say anything about the incident itself because I'm not completely sure what happened. As far as I'm concerned, the matter is behind me. I've no interest in pursuing it."

But it will not be Putt's decision; even if Dick Best, the Exiles coach, and his fellow administrators decide against citing Healey, the television coverage may result in the union taking the initiative. There are two recent precedents: in 1997, the RFU unilaterally banned the Newcastle prop Nick Popplewell for punching, even though the offence was dealt with by the match official. The union also suspended another Falcons forward, Dean Ryan, for a similar offence during a match at Bath. In both cases, the RFU brought disrepute charges.

There is unlikely to be a decision this week; the RFU has yet to set a date for a hearing involving Kevin Yates, the Bath prop cited by Wasps last week for alleged stamping. Healey, 90 per cent certain to make the England 22 for this weekend's Calcutta Cup match with Scotland, could be banned for months rather than weeks if London Irish or the RFU mount a successful case against him.