Rugby Union: Yates fears another long ban after citing by Wasps

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The Independent Online
THE MAN from Medicine Hat is finding it impossible to escape the poison.

Kevin Yates, the international prop from Bath who was notoriously found guilty of biting an opponent's ear last season, has been cited by the Wasps management for alleged head-stamping during Sunday's Premiership match at Loftus Road. The irony was almost too bitter for words: yesterday's announcement came exactly a year after Yates saw an exciting future all but devastated by a six-month ban from the Rugby Football Union's disciplinary tribunal.

He must now contemplate a second ordeal before the hanging judges of Twickenham, thanks to a piece video footage that, according to Wasps, shows him connecting with the head of Paul Volley, the Londoners' open- side flanker. Volley needed seven stitches in the resultant wound and given the relevant disciplinary antecedents, Yates can expect another lengthy career break if the verdict goes against him. Stamping usually carries a 12-week penalty, but as a "head job" is considered one of rugby's more serious misdemeanours, another six-month sentence cannot be ruled out.

Neither Yates nor Andy Robinson, the Bath coach, would comment yesterday, but this new affair came as a severe smack between the eyes to both men. It is conceivable that Yates, reportedly considering a move to New Zealand provincial rugby when his contract expires in May, has played his last game for the ailing West Country club. Robinson, meanwhile, has enough on his plate as a result of the 35-0 humiliation at Wasps, without new allegations of thuggery by one of his players.

Yates' reputation went into free-fall in January last year when he was accused of biting Simon Fenn, the London Scottish flanker, during a Tetley's Bitter Cup tie at the Recreation Ground; Fenn needed 25 stitches and later went public at a press conference swathed in bandages. Yates protested his innocence - he has never wavered from that stance - and spent a small fortune on legal representation, but the RFU panel were not persuaded by his case.

Bath must be sick of disciplinary problems. Two of their other international forwards, Ben Sturnham and Victor Ubogu, were summoned to answer sending- off charges this season, though both were acquitted.

Talking of internationals, Clive Woodward gave the clearest hint yet that Joel Stransky might be considered for England World Cup duty when the tournament kicks off in October. Stransky is no Englishman, of course; as South African as biltong, the outside-half from Pietermaritzburg kicked the Springboks to the Webb Ellis Cup four years ago. But he qualifies for England in September under the three-year residency rule - he has been playing for Leicester since 1996 - and the national coach yesterday said that if his form justified inclusion this autumn, then included he would be.

"If he genuinely turns out to be better than the players we have, I would have no problem," said Woodward, who believes such an eventuality would be an indictment of England's player development programme. "I've had lunch with Joel and there is no doubt that he'd love to play for the team. I'm looking at every game he plays. As a professional coach of a professional team, it's my job to pick the best available."

One big name definitely included in the national set-up is Dick Best, whose spectacular success with London Irish has earned him an honorary selector's role with the England A and Sevens squads. Best successfully coached the England Test team under the management of Geoff Cooke in the early 1990s, but failed to survive the appointment of Jack Rowell as head cook and bottlewasher in 1994.

It has been one of Best's constant beefs that the Rugby Football Union never had the courtesy to tell him he was sacked, but Woodward's outstanding management skills have obviously smoothed things over. The former career Harlequin is now a prime candidate to succeed Woodward as England coach at some point in the future, although he will face stern opposition from Gloucester's Richard Hill.

Squads, Digest, page 29

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