Lam set to miss Leinster return

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The Independent Online

A bleak season for the defending European champions Northampton looks like becoming even more miserable. On the back of their three opening Heineken Cup defeats comes the news that their inspirational captain Pat Lam is almost certain to be out of the return match against Leinster in Dublin on Friday evening.

A bleak season for the defending European champions Northampton looks like becoming even more miserable. On the back of their three opening Heineken Cup defeats comes the news that their inspirational captain Pat Lam is almost certain to be out of the return match against Leinster in Dublin on Friday evening.

Lam has been suffering from a long-term shoulder injury and the Saints director of coaching, John Steele, said yesterday: "The likelihood is that Pat will miss the match, but we won't know until a fitness test on Thursday."

But Steele was confident that the injury would not require an operation. "The medical experts said in the summer that there was no need for an operation and no mention of the possibility of an operation has been made since."

Confusion surrounds the issue of yellow cards in the Heineken Cup. While the Rugby Football Union is diligently recording the name of every offender in the European tournament, other unions are not bothering.

This is partly because the referees are not submitting a report of yellow-card offences on which the relevant union can act, and where there is no report, there is clearly no offence. This bizarre situation could in theory lead to English-based players, who may have picked up a couple of yellows in the Zurich Premiership, being banned under the RFU's totting-up scheme, while players from other clubs under the aegis of different unions will play on.

The situation has arisen because the organisers of the Heineken Cup, ERC Ltd, did not incorporate regulations governing the showing of yellow cards, nor were referees instructed to file a report on the offences.

The chief executive of ERC, Derek McGrath, said: "We have taken a look at both issues, the totting-up procedure and the reporting of yellow-card incidents by referees to the home union of the offending player, and we do acknowledge that something needs to be done."

"We had agreed at the start of the tournament that there would be no totting-up and also it was agreed that the local match commissioner would report any incidents to the relevant union," he added. "Unfortunately the information is not getting from the match commissioner to the union fast enough."

If the issue is not sorted out the RFU's disciplinary officer, Robert Horner, admitted yesterday: "We might have to disregard all yellow cards picked up by players during the European Cup."

Leicester Tigers received a boost to their Heineken Cup hopes yesterday when Fereti Tuilagi, their Samoan centre, was cleared by ERC Ltd to play in the tournament.

Meanwhile, the England coach, Clive Woodward, steered Jason Robinson on to the fast track to international status, predictably drafting the former Wigan Rugby League wing into the England development squad yesterday.

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