Grewcock ready to face French after great escape

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The Independent Online

Danny Grewcock, generally considered to be the meanest son of a gun in the Six Nations Championship, has never been a favourite of the disciplinary fraternity, having experienced more than his fair share of dismissals and been cited more often than Bluebeard. It came as some surprise, therefore, that the match commissioner casting a gimlet eye over the events of last weekend's Powergen Cup semi-finals at the Millennium Stadium should have embraced the quality of mercy in the Bath second-row forward's connection.

Grewcock was accused of stamping on Mike Hercus, the Llanelli Scarlets outside-half, in open play during Saturday's knife-edge match, and there was a widespread assumption that he would be cited - a move that would have cost him his place in the France-England match in Paris on Sunday. As it turned out, the man charged with making the call, former international referee Ken Pattinson, merely cautioned him for reckless use of the boot. In other words, he let him off.

As there is a long-established tradition of banning players found guilty of such an offence, Pattinson's decision was interesting, to put it mildly. It is the job of a citing commissioner to decide whether a player has a case to answer, not to pass judgement. The French might be forgiven for suspecting the case would have been handled very differently had there been no major international on the horizon.

England did lose one of their élite forwards yesterday. George Chuter, the uncapped Leicester hooker who sat on the bench at Murrayfield 10 days ago, was cited for stamping on his opposite number, Raphael Ibañez, during his club's Powergen semi-final tie with Wasps. Under Six Nations rules, he cannot play with a hearing pending. Under Premiership rules, however, the Tigers are entitled to pick him for their fixture with Leeds on Friday. To suggest the system is as clear as mud would be an insult to mud.

Chuter is one of the more dispensible players in the England set-up, not least because Lee Mears of Bath is at the top of his game. Grewcock, on the other hand, is as close to indispensible as it gets. Wasps' Simon Shaw performed brilliantly at the weekend, but he does not have his rival's - how shall we put it? - forthright approach to the sport's realities. As Bernard Laporte, the French coach, has described the forthcoming occasion as "more like a boxing match than a chess game", the good Mr Pattinson appears to have done England a service.

Andy Robinson, the England coach, was scheduled to confirm his line-up this afternoon. Changes will be minimal, but Bath prop Matt Stevens will certainly be recalled if making a full recovery from a shoulder injury suffered a little over a fortnight ago. Stevens is the best ball-carrying forward available to the world champions at present.

The Italy flanker Mauro Bergamasco, meanwhile, will miss his side's game against Wales in Cardiff because of a thigh injury.