Dave Atwood, the Gloucester lock who won his first full England honours during the autumn internationals and is widely expected to play a prominent role at next year's World Cup, was yesterday singled out for fierce criticism by officials of the French club La Rochelle, who accused him of leaving their Romanian Test prop Petrisor Toderasc with gruesome facial injuries. Toderasc needed hospital treatment after losing two teeth, fracturing a cheekbone and suffering bruising around the eye.
The two clubs met in a bad-tempered Amlin Challenge Cup game at Kingsholm on Sunday evening, which ended in a six-point victory for the Frenchmen and put Gloucester at risk of failing to qualify for the knock-out stage. After receiving confirmation of the extent of Toderasc's injuries, La Rochelle accused Attwood of booting the front-rower in the face and insisted that charges of serious foul play should be brought against him.
Vincent Merling, the La Rochelle president, was quoted in France as saying that Toderasc's teeth had been "smashed", and there were also reports that the Romanian had feared losing the sight in his damaged eye. Les Maritimes, as they are called, confirmed they had been in touch with the European Rugby Cup citing team in the expectation of prompt disciplinary action being taken. For their part, the Gloucester management said they were unaware of the issues raised by their opponents.
Attwood is one of the brightest tight-forward prospects in the country. The 23-year-old lock impressed the England manager Martin Johnson during the summer tour of Australia, and a number of leading clubs, including Bath, are thought to be keen on recruiting him should contract discussions at Gloucester hit the buffers.
He does, however, have some previous. In Australia in June, he was cited for stamping during a midweek game, only to be acquitted on a technicality.
It was a difficult day all round for ERC officials, whose questionable handling of the Brendan Venter affair – the Saracens director of rugby was heavily fined for criticising a referee in October – has left them hostages to fortune, especially as the Leicester coach Richard Cockerill uttered a few Venterisms of his own after last weekend's game with Perpignan.
Meanwhile, reigning champions Toulouse maintained their 100 per cent record in this year's Heineken Cup with a comfortable 36-10 victory over Glasgow Warriors in a rearranged game last night. The bonus-point victory by the French club leaves them two clear of the in-form Wasps in Pool Six, with Glasgow a distant third.
Maxi Medard and Virgile Lacombe scored first-half tries for the hosts who led 14-3 at the interval. DTH van der Merwe gave Glasgow a glimmer of hope with a try early in the second half, but they were blown away by further tries from Clément Poitrenaud, Thierry Dusautoir and Vincent Clerc.