Spitting Jérôme Fillol to be banned for season maximum suspension
Stade Français scrum-half widely condemned
Jérôme Fillol, the Stade Français scrum-half widely condemned for spitting in the face of his Bath counterpart Peter Stringer during last weekend's Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final at the Recreation Ground, was duly cited for the offence last night and will be dealt with at a disciplinary hearing in Dublin on Thursday.
He is unlikely to receive the maximum one-year suspension provided for under International Rugby Board sanctions, but if the independent judicial officer Anthony Davis decides the incident was as bad as it appeared on television footage, then he will be lucky to play again this season.
Fillol faces a charge of "committing an act contrary to good sportsmanship". As with every other alleged offence, there are three "starting points", designed to reflect the seriousness of an incident. The "top end" category in this case carries a minimum ban of 11 weeks and judging by the furious reaction of rugby followers on social media, there will be a good deal of anger if anything less is meted out.
A second Stade Français player, the prop Rabah Slimani, must also face a hearing after being cited for tackling Nick Abendanon while the Bath wing was in the air. Slimani received a yellow card at the time, but the citing officer Eugene Ryan has decided the offence may have warranted a full sending off.
On the British and Irish Lions front, another front-line Test candidate for this summer's series in Australia is about to remind the head coach Warren Gatland of his existence after a spell on the sidelines. Jonathan Sexton, the Ireland outside-half, has a good chance of playing for Leinster in this weekend's big Pro12 game with Munster after recovering from a torn tendon in his foot. His imminent return – allied to that of the Munster lock Paul O'Connell, the Ulster wing Tommy Bowe and the Newport Gwent Dragons flanker Dan Lydiate – will be welcomed by Gatland as he finalises his tour party over the coming days.
Mike Blair, one of the Lions' scrum-halves in 2009, will play in England next season after agreeing terms with Newcastle, hot favourites to make an immediate return to the Premiership after relegation last term.
The 31-year-old Scot, who led his country on 14 occasions, is now playing for Brive, the former European champions currently chasing promotion from French rugby's second tier.
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