Clermont lock Cudmore to miss Leinster ties after 10-week ban

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The Independent Online

If there were those who wondered whether the notoriously aggressive Clermont Auvergne lock Jamie Cudmore might have done the Saracens flanker Jacques Burger a favour by standing on his face during last weekend's big Heineken Cup contest in central France – the ultra-competitive Burger's face is so beaten-up, almost any fresh mark could be taken for an improvement – it was not an argument that cut much ice at yesterday's disciplinary hearing. Cudmore was banned for 10 weeks and will miss three important European fixtures: the trip to Racing Metro on Saturday, plus the back-to-back games with Leinster, the 2009 champions, in two months' time.

Cudmore denied a charge of kicking/stamping/trampling – no one could accuse the tournament's legal guardians of not covering their bases – but was found guilty of the middle transgression. Simon Thomas, the independent judicial officer who heard the case in Dublin, decided it was a "top end" transgression, and after considering the Canadian's list of "previous", he banned him until 20 December.

Clermont Auvergne, the reigning national champions and one of the favourites for the European title, are better placed than most to absorb the loss of a hardened tight forward: they have three French Test locks – Julien Pierre, Thibault Privat and Loic Jacquet – on their books, along with a number of back-row players who know what it is to step into the boilerhouse. But with the fine Argentine hooker Mario Ledesma out of commission after a bout of knee surgery on Tuesday, not even Clermont can afford too many more enforced absences.

It was a busy day on the disciplinary front. Martyn Williams, the Wales and Lions open-side flanker whose international career has been defined by flashes of footballing brilliance rather than acts of skulduggery, admitted dropping his knee into the face of the Scotland full-back Chris Paterson during the Cardiff Blues-Edinburgh fixture on Saturday and was suspended for a fortnight. His guilty plea, allied to a decent disciplinary record, spared him a third week on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, the Munster centre Sam Tuitupou will miss this weekend's major set-to with Toulon after picking up a three-week ban for dangerous tackling. The All Black centre tipped the London Irish scrum-half on his head and was punished at the time with a spell in the sin bin. Even so, he pleaded not guilty at yesterday's hearing, only to be convicted after consideration of video evidence.

In the final case, the Samoan flanker Jonny Fa'amatuainu was banned for a similar period after admitting inflicting a dangerous tackle on the wing Adrien Plante while playing for Scarlets against Perpignan. Fa'amatuainu might easily have received a suspension twice as long, but was given credit for his lack of past brushes with officialdom.

Newcastle, who began their Amlin Challenge Cup campaign in decent fashion with a home victory over Bourgoin a week ago, have made several changes for tonight's altogether more challenging contest in Montpellier. The Tynesiders give a first start to the 18-year-old outside-half Joel Hodgson, who replaces the injured Jeremy Manning, while the rather more experienced Andy Henderson returns in midfield for the stricken Gcobani Bobo. Up front, Redford Pennycook resumes in the back row.

It is safe to say that this competition is not at the top of Montpellier's agenda: they have not even bothered to register their two best players, the brilliant flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo and the increasingly impressive outside-half François Trinh-Duc, both of whom are first-choice picks in the French national team. But their performances in Top 14 rugby thus far have been impressive; indeed, they are yet to lose at home this season.

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