Venter faces long ban today for referee outburst

Saracens director of rugby to be charged while Saints secure new Mallinder deal
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The Independent Online

Brendan Venter, the soliloquising South African whose lambasting of the referee David Rose after last weekend's Saracens-Leicester match at Vicarage Road was as epic in scale as it was inflammatory in content, will be formally charged by the Rugby Football Union today.

The governing body, acutely sensitive to any breach of discipline following the cheating and drugs scandals at leading Premiership clubs last season, will throw the book at the World Cup winner on two counts: publicly criticising Rose, and questioning his integrity.

Venter, appointed director of rugby at Saracens following the abrupt resignation of the former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones, reacted so strongly to Rose's performance after Leicester's victory that RFU action was inevitable. The union's disciplinary and legal teams were still putting the final touches to the indictment yesterday, but senior officials are in no mood for wrist-slapping. The prospect of a lengthy ban from all match-day activity, together with a fine, is looming large.

Saracens still top the Premiership table, despite consecutive defeats that consigned the club's impressive pre-Christmas run of nine victories and a draw to the dustbin of recent history. However their nearest challengers, Northampton, are in a far happier state, and the Saints were further buoyed yesterday when their own "Venter figure", the infinitely more diplomatic Jim Mallinder, signed a two-year extension to his existing contract, taking him through to 2013.

They also caused ructions in the East Midlands neighbourhood by luring Dusty Hare, one of the finest England goalkickers of yesteryear, away from Leicester, where he has been involved as player, coach, talent scout and mentor for decades. "Dusty has been a great servant of the club and we wish him all the very best for the future," said Richard Cockerill, the Leicester head coach, a trifle abruptly. Hare will work on recruitment and player development at Franklin's Gardens.

The Mallinder re-signing is a smart piece of business by Northampton. The former Sale coach is regarded as one of the brightest young back-room operators in top-flight rugby and has made a magnificent fist of the director of rugby role since switching clubs two and a half years ago. Should England come knocking at any time in the next three years, they will have to fork out a good deal of money in compensation.

"Jim has turned the team around and the board believe he is in the process of building something very special," said Allan Robson, the chief executive. For his part Mallinder said he considered the Northampton project to be in its early stages. "We still have a lot of improvement to make," he commented. "We've all worked very hard to put ourselves in contention in all three competitions this season, but I want us to stay at the top end of the Premiership and become regular contenders in the Heineken Cup over the next three years. I believe we can achieve this, which is why I've decided to extend my stay."

*The British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts, 22, has signed a contract extension which will keep him at Cardiff Blues until at least 2013.