Caucaunibuca free to face Scotland after ban is limited to two matches

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The Independent Online

While there was many a Scottish flanker with his head buried in his hands last night, rugby connoisseurs everywhere were breathing a huge sigh of relief that they have not seen the last of Rupeni Caucaunibuca in this World Cup.

The Fijian flier was cleared to face Scotland on 1 November after escaping with a two-match ban following his outrageous attack on France's Olivier Magne in Saturday's Pool A defeat. Caucaunibuca, the 23-year-old winger, widely regarded as the one of the most exciting talents at the World Cup, must sit out the forthcoming games against the United States and Japan having admitted the offence at a three-hour disciplinary hearing in Sydney last night.

However, after taking into account "mitigating circumstances" that will not be revealed until today, the International Rugby Board decided against imposing the recommended penalty for striking an opponent, leaving the Auckland Blues wing free to face the Scots in a match which should decide who accompanies the Pool B favourites, France, into the quarter-final.

So, after his virtuoso try against France, which could yet win the "Try of the Tournament" award, the IRB might have delivered Ian McGeechan's side a slap in the face that Caucaunibuca himself would be proud of. Indeed, the player himself realised how lucky he had been not to be packing his bags and heading home in shame. "I have betrayed my team-mates," admitted Caucaunibuca in a statement read by the Fijian team manager, Joe Brown.

"I got involved because I thought one of my team-mates was going to get hurt but I shouldn't have struck the French player. I come from a remote village in Fiji where people consider me an example for the rest of that society."

Both Caucaunibuca and Magne were sin-binned for their part in the fracas which followed a bruising tackle on the French full-back Frédéric Michalak.

Another counting his lucky stars last night was the Wales captain, Colin Charvis, who has escaped a citing for his late tackle on Canada's Bob Ross in Sunday's Pool D victory.

The offence earned Charvis a yellow card and 10 minutes off the field, but many believed it should have been red and meant a whole lot longer away from the action. Fortunately for Wales, these did not include the Canadians, who decided to not press the case further and Charvis will be free to face the Tongans this weekend.

Argentina, who lost their opening match against Australia on Friday, have been forced to gamble on an under-strength side as they attempt to get their campaign back on track against Namibia in a Pool A match at Gosford's Central Coast Stadium today.

Namibia, who failed to win a match in their only previous World Cup appearance four years ago, would normally pose few problems for Argentina. But the four-day gap between their first and second matches has forced the Pumas to pick a weakened team.

The only player to retain his spot in the starting side is the winger Diego Albanese, while several others including the captain, Agustin Pichot, have been moved to the replacements' bench.