Rugby Union: Yates in trouble on and off the pitch

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The Independent Online
IF KEVIN YATES feels the whole world is against him just at the moment, he is not far wrong. The Bath prop, who is inconvenienced not so much by a cauliflower ear as a cauliflower reputation, now has the Rugby Football Union and London Scottish on his broad West Country back as well as Wasps, who have accused him of stamping on the face of their flanker, Paul Volley, during last weekend's Premiership match.

The RFU have thrown their full weight behind London Scottish's campaign to recoup pounds 20,000 in legal costs arising from last year's ear-biting scandal, which ended with a disciplinary tribunal convicting Yates of sinking his teeth into the left lobe of Simon Fenn, the Exiles flanker, during a Tetley's Bitter Cup tie. The tribunal ordered Yates to foot the entire bill and instructed him to pay the first pounds 10,000 by the end of December, but London Scottish insist they have not received a penny.

Not only have the Exiles complained to the RFU, but they are demanding a global ban on the 26-year-old international until he puts his hand in his pocket. However, Yates, who sank thousands of pounds of his own money into an attempt to prove his innocence recently stated that he had been financially ruined by the affair and could not afford to pursue the High Court appeal he had originally planned.

To make matters worse, his current Bath contract expires at the end of the season; if he is found guilty of assaulting Volley - the RFU have not yet decided when this latest case will be heard - there is a strong likelihood that the Recreation Ground management will wash their hands of him. That would leave him the option of pursuing a career in New Zealand provincial rugby, but any ban imposed in lieu of repayment to London Scottish might slam that door shut as well.

For the moment, at least, Bath are standing by their most troublesome offspring. "Until we know the facts of the Wasps business, we cannot condemn the guy," said Bob Calleja, the former European champions' general manager.

"We're in the realm of conjecture; we have to look at all the evidence rather than jump to hasty conclusions. We're investigating the incident.

"Andy Robinson, our coach, will look at the video footage and discuss it with Kevin. If the case against him is proved, there will be repercussions.

"Unless and until that happens, we will support him as we would any other Bath player."

Meanwhile, news that the big-time professional clubs in England and France had agreed a common approach to the thorny question of next year's European Cup was greeted less than enthusiastically by Tom Kiernan, who chairs the organising committee of the current tournament. Nevertheless, Kiernan agreed that the new blueprint, thought to propose a 20-team competition with six places reserved for both England and France, should be discussed by the board of European Rugby Cup Ltd.

The bargaining is certain to be of the hard variety, particularly as the English are not keen on any secondary European Shield-style competition. while the Celts and Italians are unlikely to dance with joy at the prospect of only eight places between four countries. The Welsh want all four so- called "super clubs" to be involved, even though they themselves have identified only two of them, while the Irish would argue against a drop from three entrants to two, especially as they boast the reigning champions in Ulster.

Andy Hindle, the West Hartlepool chairman, gave some legitimacy to the constant rumours that his club was about to negotiate a merger with Newcastle in the light of Sir John Hall's imminent off-loading of the Falcons. "The idea of a super-club here in the North-east is attractive," acknowledged Hindle yesterday. "It would have to be on a 50-50 basis - we won't be sacrificing our identity - but we're at an embryonic stage. It's very early days."

It is not early days for the Welsh, though. Graham Henry's side face a must-win Five Nations confrontation with Ireland at Wembley on Saturday week and the coach left no one in any doubt as to the urgency of the situation by rushing two injured tight forwards, David Young and Craig Quinnell, into a 24-man squad for the match. Both men missed the surprise defeat by Scotland six days ago, Young with a calf injury and Quinnell with knee problems.

Wales squad, Digest, page 31