Brits available for final after avoiding ban

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The Independent Online

The Saracens hooker Schalk Brits was reprimanded and warned as to his future conduct by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel yesterday. The South African pleaded guilty to making a foul and abusive gesture to the crowd as he was substituted during Sarries' 32-23 win at Leicester on 8 May.

Brits, who scored a late try to help Saracens beat Northampton on Sunday to reach their first Guinness Premiership final – against Leicester – was also ordered to pay £250 in costs. However, he will be free to play in the final at Twickenham a week on Saturday.

The RFU disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett revealed that the offence had not been serious enough for the player to be handed a suspension. Blackett said: "Schalk reacted to something from the crowd and his signal was momentary, without any aggression and there was no evidence that he used any abusive language.

"He immediately apologised to the crowd after the game and so there was no adverse reaction. We also received a letter from the chief executive of Leicester Tigers, Peter Wheeler, who praised his apology and contrite demeanour."

Brits' coach at Saracens, Brendan Venter, also faced a hearing yesterday after being charged with allegedly pushing a female Leicester supporter and making inappropriate gestures and comments to spectators at Welford Road.

The Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has been included in a 33-man squad for this summer's tour of Australia and New Zealand despite having been a major doubt with a groin injury.

The Munster lock has not played since his country's final Six Nations match on 20 March and has been receiving intravenous antibiotics in a Cork hospital, but has been deemed fit enough to take his place in Declan Kidney's squad.

Stephen Ferris, though, misses out with a broken cheekbone sustained in training earlier this month, while fellow back-rower Denis Leamy and back Luke Fitzgerald are ruled out by knee problems.