Fight over Henson ban given Ruddock backing

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The Independent Online

The Wales head coach, Mike Ruddock, yesterday urged the Ospreys management to consider strongly appealing against Gavin Henson's 10-week suspension.

Henson will miss the first three games of Wales' Six Nations defence after being found guilty of elbowing the Leicester prop Alejandro Moreno in the Tigers' Heineken Cup victory on 18 December. Ruddock, who yesterday said he is set to sign a contract extension that will take him through to the 2007 Rugby World Cup, agreed that Henson had a case to answer after Moreno was left with a broken nose, but he believes the suspension was harsh.

Ruddock accused rugby's disciplinary bodies of lacking consistency. "I will be interested to see whether the Ospreys appeal the citing decision," Ruddock said. "I think they should certainly consider it very strongly. I have looked at it a few times and I can't condone foul play. No doubt Gavin has a case to answer but I am not sure if the length of ban is spot-on.

"I'll leave the Ospreys to judge that as they listened to the evidence that was given for and against in the hearing. They are best placed to lodge an appeal, but my advice would be to consider it very strongly.

"I have noted that for use of the elbow there have been two or three different sentences. The South African hooker John Smit had a ban that was shorter and the French captain Fabien Pelous used an elbow and his sentence was shorter. That is something that needs to be considered."

Smit received a six-week ban for striking Jerome Thion during the Springboks' 26-20 defeat to France in November. Thion suffered a fractured larynx during the incident.

Pelous received a nine-week suspension after being found guilty of elbowing the Australian hooker Brendan Cannon in France's 26-16 win over the Wallabies.

Henson is set to miss Wales' games against England on 4 February, Scotland on 12 February and Ireland on 26 February. He will be available for the last two rounds of the Six Nations against Italy and France.