The International Rugby Board is preparing itself for a major diplomatic incident with the French – or rather, the Catalan sector of the French game – over the hooker Marius Tincu, who played a domestic club match for Perpignan despite being suspended for gouging the Ospreys front-row forward Paul James during a Heineken Cup match in mid-October. Tincu was banned for 18 weeks by a European Rugby Cup disciplinary panel and should not have set foot on a competitive pitch anywhere in the world until early March.
Perpignan, hot challengers for the French title and still in with a remote chance of progressing to the Heineken quarter-finals, fielded the Romanian Test player in their victory over Castres last weekend after taking their case to the French National and Olympic Sports Committee and questioning the legality of a blanket ban. Alarmed by rumours that the club also planned to play Tincu against Brive in 10 days' time, the IRB confirmed that it had asked the Fédération Française de Rugby for "a complete record of the events, decisions and procedures that resulted in an apparent breach of sanction".
French clubs have a history of rebelling against punishments dished out by the disciplinarians of the European game – the two-year ban imposed on the Colomiers prop Richard Nones in 1999, also for a gouging offence committed in a Heineken Cup fixture, was the subject of a long legal wrangle during which the player continued to turn out for his club – and Perpignan officials have indicated a willingness to fight Tincu's corner in the civil court.
On the Premiership front, Gloucester yesterday reported that Greg Somerville, the All Black prop who arrived at the club only a fortnight ago, had undergone surgery to repair a detached retina in his left eye. Somerville suffered the injury during the heavy defeat at London Irish on Saturday – his first start for the West Country club – and is unlikely to play again before the end of February.
"It is unbelievably bad luck, not only for Greg but for the squad," said Dean Ryan, the head coach at Kingsholm. "He was desperate to make an impact for us. Our thoughts are with him because this is a nasty injury."Reuse content