Banahan's fate in the balance after stamping

Wing could face two-week ban ruling him out of crucial Heineken Cup ties for Bath
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The Independent Online

Matt Banahan, the England wing sent off for stamping during Bath's painfully narrow league defeat at Northampton last weekend, will discover tonight whether he can play any part in the West Country club's two do-or-die Heineken Cup matches with Edinburgh over the next 10 days. Banahan has been summoned to appear before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary tribunal in Bristol this evening and if he is found guilty of the charge, a two-week suspension is the most likely outcome.

Bath officials were unimpressed by the dismissal and intend to mount a stern defence of their man. They may be helped by the fact that Stephen Myler, the Northampton outside-half who found himself on the rough end of Banahan's boots-and-all routine at a ruck late in the game, played down the incident afterwards, insisting that his opponent had caught him on the arm rather than the head, as had initially been alleged. However, contact of any description is greatly frowned upon these days. At the very least, Banahan could be banned for recklessness.

The decision of a Premier Rugby disciplinary panel to absolve Wasps of any wrongdoing at Sale late last month – the Londoners refused to play on a saturated Edgeley Park pitch, forcing a postponement 15 minutes before the scheduled kick-off – drew contrasting reactions from the two clubs. Wasps expressed their "delight" at the outcome, but James Jennings, the chief executive of Sale, saw it very differently. "This is incredibly disappointing and will come as a shock to all Sale supporters who were at Edgeley Park on the night," he said, adding that the club would react further after publication of the panel's judgement.

It has been a decent few days for Wasps, all things considered. Their victory over Leicester on Sunday restored them to the top-four play-off zone, while the safe return to competitive action of their celebrity playmaker Danny Cipriani on Monday raised the prospect of a first-team comeback against the Basques of Bayonne in this weekend's Amlin Challenge Cup tie.

"It's good to get back," Cipriani said after playing 40 minutes for his club's second string in their Guinness A League defeat by Harlequins at Henley, his first serious game since suffering a hairline fracture of the right fibula in early October.

"After the first four weeks of healing the bone, it gets a bit frustrating. Then you start training in the gym every single day and it gets a bit more frustrating. But you have to do it. People like Jonny Wilkinson come back time after time."

Lee Smith, the rugby league wing recently recruited by Wasps, made his union debut in the same match. "It was not the most glamorous of games but I enjoyed it," he said. "There is a lot to learn. It's not as simple as people think it is." Smith is hardly the first 13-a-sider to find this out, but the Londoners are convinced he will make a decent fist of the transition.

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