Ospreys withdraw White gouging claim

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The Independent Online

The Ospreys have apologised for accusing England and Leicester prop Julian White of gouging one of their players during Saturday's Heineken Cup match.

Ospreys coaches Sean Holley and Jonathan Humphreys rounded on White for an incident involving hooker Richard Hibbard in the 15-9 victory in Swansea.

They stated two players had been affected with Hibbard suffering the most serious damage. The Welsh club supplied video footage to support their claim and declared White had also gouged during the same fixture at Welford Road in October.

But in an unexpected development last night, Leicester's former England skipper Martin Corry was cited for the offence, prompting the Ospreys to partially withdraw their accusations against White.

A statement released today said: "The Ospreys will await the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.

"But we would like to make clear that the gouging incidents currently being pursued relate to Martin Corry at Saturday's game at the Liberty Stadium and that matters relating to Julian White are purely connected with the prior encounter at Welford Road.

"The Ospreys would like to apologise for any erroneous comments relating to the identity of the individuals concerned immediately after Saturday's game prior to official citing."

The twist came as a relief to England manager Martin Johnson who could ill-afford to lose another tighthead following Matt Stevens' suspension for failing a drugs test.

But equally surprising for Johnson will have been that his friend and former England and Leicester team-mate Corry has been cited.

Corry's reputation throughout a fine career, which is due to end with retirement at the end of the season, has been near-impeccable and the 35-year-old is a respected figure in the game.

He retired from international rugby after the 2007 World Cup and has no great history of disciplinary trouble.

If the offence is proven and is treated as gouging, it can carry a ban anywhere from 12 weeks up to a maximum of three years for very serious offences.

Earlier this season Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley was given a six-month ban for gouging and his Irish club-mate Neil Best was suspended for 18 weeks.

Should the citing be upheld and Corry receive a similar punishment, he will face an abrupt and ignominious end to an otherwise celebrated career.