France hit by Magne suspension

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The Independent Online

Olivier Magne, the French captain, was last night banned for 23 days after being found guilty of stamping on the head of Italy's winger Denis Dallan during Saturday's Six Nations' Championship match. The suspension means Magne will miss the game against Wales in Cardiff on 16 February, but he gets back in time to take on England in Paris on 3 March.

The three-man panel sitting in London ruled that Magne's act had been reckless rather than deliberate. Two years ago he had a 21-day suspension after being found guilty of a butt on Scotland's Stuart Reid.

Yesterday's draw for the Heineken Cup semi-finals has pitched Leicester into an unwelcome repeat match against Llanelli, who blew them away in their final Pool One match at Stradey Park last month. This time though, when the ties are played on the weekend of 27-28 April, the Scarlets will not have home advantage.

The other tie sees Munster travelling to Castres. The two teams were involved in a controversial final Pool Four match in France, which resulted in the Irish side claiming prop Peter Clohessy had been bitten on the arm by Castres's back-row forward Ismael Lassissi. The French side countered by saying that Lassissi had been the target of racial abuse.

A subsequent disciplinary hearing banned Lassissi for a year, but that was overturned on appeal. Castres withdrew their accusation of racial abuse.

England are guaranteed a representative in the Parker Pen Shield final after Gloucester were drawn against Sale, while London Irish came out ahead of Pontypridd. The semi-finals will be played on the same weekend as the Heineken Cup semis.

If anyone wanted to know just how quick Mark Cueto is they only have to look at the speed at which he has climbed through the representative ranks. He made his Premiership debut at the start of the season and yesterday the Sale winger was named in England's 30-man squad for the Six Nations game against Ireland on 16 February.

The odds are that he has been given the nod merely to provide the likes of Austin Healey with a wake-up call, but after seeing how ready the England manager Clive Woodward was in blooding another rookie, scrum-half Nick Duncombe at Murrayfield last weekend, Cueto's chances of making the final 22 cannot be written off.

The 22-year-old, who only took up the game in 1997, made his first-team debut for Sale just 16 games ago, in the opening Premiership fixture of the season at Bristol, and he marked the start with the first of his seven tries to date for the club.

Since then he has made it into the England Sevens side, turned out for England A against Scotland A last week and now finds himself elevated even higher.

Cueto is one of eight additions to the Calcutta Cup 22, and included among them are the Leicester hooker Dorian West and the Gloucester prop Phil Vickery, who have recovered from injury. Mike Catt, left out of the squad for the Scotland game is back, and Henry Paul, who was dropped to the A team, has also been recalled, while Matt Perry and Declan Danaher will also take part in the Monday training session.

Lawrence Dallaglio has still not recovered from his knee injury but will attend next week's session though take no part in it, likewise the Harlequins wing Dan Luger. Woodward will announce the reduced squad the following day.

The Welsh Rugby Union appear to have ignored the angry calls for coach Graham Henry to resign following the abject display by Wales in Dublin. Henry underwent an intensive debriefing in Cardiff yesterday, after which the WRU apparently gave him the dreaded vote of confidence.

It is believed they are reluctant to sack the New Zealander because it would cost them the best part of £400,000 to pay off the 18 months left on his contract.

Heineken Cup: Semi-finals: Leicester v Llanelli; Castres v Munster. (Ties to be played 27-28 April).

Parker Pen European Shield: Semi-finals: London Irish v Pontypridd; Gloucester v Sale. (Ties to be played 27-28 April).

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