Rugby Union: Yates considers High Court action

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The Independent Online
Two foursquare West Country props with tarnished reputations swapped sweatbands and jockstraps for pinstripes and briefcases yesterday as rugby's disciplinary system came under renewed stress and strain.

While Phil Vickery, the Gloucester tight head, was announcing he would challenge a 30-day suspension imposed after Saturday's Five Nations match between England and Wales, Kevin Yates, the Bath loose head banned for six months after being found guilty of ear-biting, was considering whether to take his case to the High Court.

Two weeks ago, a three-man Rugby Football Union disciplinary tribunal decided Yates had indeed bitten Simon Fenn, the London Scottish flanker, during a Tetley's Bitter Cup tie at the Recreation Ground last month. Their sentence, considered in rugby circles to be unusually lenient, still cost the international a place in Bath's Heineken Cup-winning side and effectively ruled him out of the Five Nations' Championship and England's summer tour of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

However, Yates has never wavered from his protestation of innocence and although he has now decided against appealing to a new Rugby Football Union tribunal in an effort to clear his name, he has not ruled out bypassing the sport's disciplinary machinery and going straight to the High Court. His solicitor, Eddie Parladorio, said: "Although deeply disappointed with the original decision of the RFU, he is very grateful for all the support afforded to him. He has already commenced training with Bath in anticipation a return to playing in July."

Vickery, who made his international debut in England's try-fest at Twickenham at the weekend, was cited by the Welsh management for punching Colin Charvis a few minutes into the second half. Peter Boyle, the match commissioner from Ireland, handed the Cornishman a one-month sentence in line with International Board recommendations but a furious condemnation of citing procedures by Clive Woodward and the rest of the national coaching hierarchy paved the way for an appeal.

Vickery's stand was supported yesterday by the RFU's disciplinary officer, Roy Manock, who has written to the IB demanding a review of procedures. As Woodward lambasted the system, calling it "imbalanced and counter- productive", Manock highlighted regulatory inconsistencies that look like costing Vickery a cap against Scotland next month when he might have expected a warning or, at most, a yellow card had his transgression been seen by the referee.