Shontayne Hape had a message yesterday for anyone who has queried his call-up into Martin Johnson's Six Nations squad. "I'm a proud Englishman," said the 28-year-old, who was born in Auckland and has played 14 times for the New Zealand rugby league team.
Whether Hape's declaration will go any way to appeasing those who question whether imports should block home-grown talent is dubious. On Wednesday at the squad announcement, a clearly annoyed Johnson responded, "Is that relevant?" when asked about Hape's nationality. The centre is clearly of the same opinion, although he did confess to fearing barracking from the land of his birth.
"I was brought up in New Zealand and I'm proud of where I come from," Hape told the Bath Chronicle. "But I'm proud to be an Englishman as well and have dual nationality. I was expecting a bit more resistance from friends and family, but they are all behind me 100 per cent."
Hape jumped codes from Bradford Bulls to The Rec 18 months ago and only received his residency papers earlier this month. Yet despite playing only 33 times for Bath, Brian Smith, Johnson's attack coach, made England's interest clear. Nevertheless, Hape revealed that he was stunned when Tuesday's call came. "I thought someone was playing a prank," he said.
Meanwhile, Stade Français are ready to use French law to fight Julien Dupuy's 23-week ban for gouging. The club's president, Max Guazzini, was not impressed by the appeals committee's one-week reduction on Wednesday and signified that he would make representations to both the French federation and the French league.
Under French law the latter are required to ratify the European Rugby Cup ban. But even if they do, Guazzini could still go to the French sporting court of appeal, the CNSOF, to present the scrum-half's case. If the ban was overturned or reduced still further it could mean that Dupuy could play in the French league, but not in the Heineken Cup.
"It's a very heavy sanction," he told Reuters after the appeal ruling. "They [ERC] wanted to make an example. The player [Ulster's Stephen Ferris] said himself there was no gouging." Guazzini's mood might not be helped any today. Dupuy's team-mate David Attoub will discover whether he will also be banned for gouging Ferris in the same match in December. Attoub's initial hearing on Wednesday was adjourned.