The Stade Français scrum-half Jérôme Fillol did not attempt to plead innocence when he answered a charge of spitting in the face of his Bath opponent Peter Stringer – live television coverage of the incident complete with multi-angled replays, followed by 100,000 hits on YouTube, meant there was very little point – and no one was surprised that he was given a long break from the sport. Fillol was banned for 14 weeks and will not play again until mid-August.
Yet some will feel he escaped lightly. Anthony Davis, an independent judicial officer sitting on behalf of the organisers of the two European tournaments, decided Fillol's sin, committed in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final, was worthy of a 26-week suspension. Davis gave Fillol credit for "compelling mitigating factors" that included an expression of "genuine remorse", and lopped a full three months from his sentence.
Another plank of Fillol's mitigation was his "exemplary record", which may have forced Stringer to raise an eyebrow. The diminutive Irish veteran had recalled a similar incident with the same player during an Under-21 international as long ago as 1999. Both Fillol and the officials of European Rugby Cup Ltd have a right of appeal.
Tonight's game between Sale and Gloucester affects both ends of the Premiership table, with the home side looking for the win that will just about send London Welsh through the relegation trapdoor, and the West Countrymen attempting to move closer to a semi-final place. Sale have made one change after the 33-33 draw at London Irish, Will Addison replacing Charlie Amesbury on the right wing. Gloucester have recalled Billy Twelvetrees at inside centre and have No 8 Ben Morgan on the bench after long-term injury.
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