Flavell to face English justice via video link to New Zealand

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The Independent Online

The Rugby Football Union's disciplinary officer, Jeff Blackett, is to deal with Troy Flavell. If he succeeds, it will be more than the England team managed to do as the lock forward from North Harbour, playing for the New Zealand Barbarians at Twickenham last weekend, earned himself a whole sackful of Christmas notoriety.

In the absence of England's enforcer-in-chief, Martin Johnson, the aggressive Maori put Richard Hill off the pitch with what looked suspiciously like a forearm smash to the nose and lived to tell the tale. But in the video age, few escape some form of justice for long.

It was video footage that persuaded the RFU to cite Flavell in the first place, and the New Zealander, now back at home in Auckland, will answer for his alleged sins via a long-distance video link-up next Monday morning. As Blackett was the citing officer for the much-criticised "celebration" match, which England won 45-17, few would give Flavell much for his chances of acquittal. But the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, which should have dealt with its player under the rules of engagement covering the one-off fixture, has formally passed responsibility to Blackett. If only the All Blacks had passed the ball as successfully during the World Cup last month, they might have won the tournament.

"I am content to take back jurisdiction in this case if the NZRFU feel more comfortable with that course of action," Blackett said yesterday. "We had agreed that the players' own unions should deal with any citing complaints, to prevent the need for players and officials to remain in this country pending a hearing and to make the administration of justice easier for all concerned. However, the important issue is that any allegation of foul play is properly investigated and dealt with as thoroughly as possible."

Flavell, who has troubled the authorities before, is not the most popular of people with the good folk of Saracens RFC, who yesterday confirmed Hill's enforced absence from Saturday's top-of-the-bill match with Bath, the Premiership leaders, at Vicarage Road. The world-class flanker consulted a specialist in London on Monday night because of the excessive swelling caused by a 13-stitch wound near his right eye - not an injury under investigation by Blackett - and the busted nose he suffered in his little tête à tête with the accused.

"The doctor warned me that I risked permanent damage if I played this weekend and received a further blow," Hill said. "It is a bitter disappointment. This is a big game for the club and I was desperate to be involved." There is a reasonable chance that the two-tour Lion will play against Leeds in Watford on New Year's Day.

One of Hill's more celebrated colleagues in Australia last month, a chap by the name of Wilkinson, may make a return to Premiership action against Northampton at Kingston Park on Sunday. Diagnosed as suffering from a fractured bone in his shoulder, an injury that may have been caused during the World Cup final against the Wallabies, he has increased his training over the last week and will learn on Boxing Day whether the Falcons' medical staff have passed him fit.

Northampton will certainly travel without two of their England regulars, Ben Cohen and Matthew Dawson, who are struggling with groin and calf problems respectively. However, Sale have received much better news on the personnel front. Three internationals - Charlie Hodgson, Bryan Redpath and Alex Sanderson - have recovered from their various ailments and are available to face the Premiership's relegation certainties, Rotherham, at Edgeley Park on Saturday.