Round-up: Exiles face fresh action and fines over Keats


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The Independent Online

The Tyson Keats affair that cost London Welsh five league points is not over. The club are subject to an inquiry by the UK Border Agency into their illegal employment of the New Zealand-born scrum-half before he obtained the correct working visa.

The ultimate penalty would be a removal of their licence to hire foreign players, but more likely is a written warning or a £5,000 fine.

Welsh also face possible disciplinary action and a fine in the thousands from European Rugby Cup Ltd for Keats' appearance in an Amlin Challenge Cup match against Stade Français.

On the plus side, the uncapped Kiwi's status as an "England Qualified Player" took London Welsh over the 14-man threshold to earn them a £200,000 EQP payment from the Rugby Football Union for the first half of the season.

The Saracens director of rugby , Mark McCall, praised "sensitive" winger Chris Ashton as the England international recaptured his scoring form after coming under fire for his poor performances. Ashton grabbed the crucial second-half try in the 22-13 win at Wasps on Saturday in the Premiership.

"It was the Chris Ashton everybody talked about two years ago, popping up all over the place," said McCall, whose side face Ulster at Twickenham on Sunday in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, after going four points clear at the top of the Premiership table.

"He's a sensitive soul and anyone in the world who is sensitive is going to be affected by some of the criticism he received. However, when he came back to Saracens he knew he was coming back to a place where we won't judge him in that way."

The former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson says he is close to signing a new one-year deal with French side Toulon. Wilkinson, 33, was considering retirement before undergoing groin surgery in January, which was successful.

"We are almost there with regards to extending my stay," Wilkinson said after his side's 43-11 win over Stade Français on Saturday.

"I have said all season if I thought I could contribute something to the team next season I wanted to stay."