Papé escapes with 10-week ban, adding insult to injury for Heaslip

Papé would be well advised to count his blessings and keep his knees to himself in future

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Jamie Heaslip, the high-calibre Lions Test No 8 whose presence in the Ireland back row would have given England plenty to think about in Dublin next weekend, cannot be in the best of humours.

His Six Nations tournament came to a premature end when he fractured three vertebrae in his back during the ferociously physical game with France five days ago and, as if that were not enough, the man responsible for inflicting the damage – the Stade Français lock Pascal Papé – has escaped with a 10-week suspension: a punishment far more lenient than many rugby insiders felt he deserved.

 

Papé was shown a yellow card after driving his knee into Heaslip at a ruck but, following the inevitable after-match citing, he was hauled before a disciplinary tribunal sitting in London. It decided yesterday that the 34-year-old former Tricolore captain from Lyons had committed a sending-off offence at the “top end of the scale of seriousness” and identified a so-called suspension “entry point” of 15 weeks as the most appropriate course of action. But after listening to arguments from the player’s representatives and taking into account his expression of remorse, the tribunal cut the ban by a third.

This still removes Papé from his country’s Six Nations equation – he will not be troubling the scorers again until the end of April – and it is possible that the French hierarchy will appeal against the sentence. But the likelihood of a new disciplinary panel going even softer on the culprit is remote indeed. Papé would be well advised to count his blessings and keep his knees to himself in future.

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Jamie Heaslip fractured three vertebrae in his back in the incident (Getty)

Matt Mullan, so often the forgotten man in England’s front-row calculations and out of the running for Six Nations duty now that Mako Vunipola of Saracens is back in the mix after injury, will lead fourth-placed Wasps in tonight’s Premiership match at Newcastle. Three other players who feel they have points to prove to the red-rose hierarchy – the wing Christian Wade, the centre Elliot Daly and the scrum-half Joe Simpson – are also in the starting line-up, while two active internationals, the England replacement prop Kieran Brookes and the Italy lock Josh Furno, have been named in the Tynesiders’ side.

Newcastle are just one off the bottom, despite the upturn in their attacking game, and while there is no prospect of them dropping any further – London Welsh are as dead as the proverbial dodo in relegation terms – they have issues to address. Hence yesterday’s signing of the much-travelled New Zealand playmaker Mike Delany from the French club Clermont Auvergne. Delany won a cap for the All Blacks in 2009 and spent time in Japan before heading to Europe.

“He has pretty low mileage on him, he’s in good shape and he’ll bring some valuable experience from the French Top 14 tournament and his time in Super Rugby and the All Black set-up,” said Dean Richards, the boss at Kingston Park. “His ability to control a game will fit in well with what we’re trying to do here.”

Exeter also made a move in the market yesterday, securing the services of the gifted 21-year-old Italian centre Michele Campagnaro. Meanwhile, the England outside-half Danny Cipriani agreed a two-year extension to his contract at Sale. Two rival Premiership clubs, said to be Gloucester and Harlequins, had expressed an interest in his services, as had the French and European champions Toulon, but since settling in Greater Manchester he has rekindled his Test career.

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