Nationalities no bar for referees

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The Independent Online

Refereeing issues have been a feature of this season's European campaign: Giulio de Santis, the leading Italian official, flabbergasted Wasps so comprehensively in Belfast last October that the Londoners threatened to dock him 10 points for incompetence – quite a penalty, given that referees are marked out of 10. Yesterday, the European Rugby Cup chief executive Derek McGrath announced that quarter-final appointments for next weekend had been made on the basis of form, rather than nationality.

Chris White, the professional referee from Cheltenham, will control the potentially fiery Castres-Montferrand tie in France, while Nigel Whitehouse of Wales has been awarded the Stade Français-Munster game. Bath's sell-out contest with Llanelli at the Recreation Ground will be run by Allan Lewis of Ireland; Joel Dume, the outstanding French official, has been given the Leicester-Leinster match at Welford Road. The four referees in charge of matches in the second-tier Parker Pen Shield are Joel Jutge of France, Rob Dickson of Scotland, Alain Rolland of Ireland and, er, Signore de Santis, who will take the Gloucester-Ebbw Vale tie at Kingsholm.

"We have picked the leading officials, based on pure performance," McGrath said. "In addition, we are ensuring that senior touch-judges are of sufficient quality to take over refereeing duties in the event of an injury."

As a result of this policy, four experienced international officials – Steve Lander of England, David McHugh of Ireland, Didier Mene of France and Nigel Williams of Wales – will run the Heineken Cup line next weekend, rather than in the Shield.

ERC are still awaiting any appeal by Castres against the 12-month suspension meted out to flanker Ismaella Lassissi on Thursday night. Lassissi, a 32-year-old Ivory Coast international, was found guilty of biting the Munster prop Peter Clohessyduring last weekend's game at Stade Pierre-Antoine. Following the panel's decision, Castres withdrew allegations that Clohessy had subjected Lassissi to racial abuse.

The England management have included 29-year-old Leeds prop Mike Shelley and 18-year-old Gloucester scrum-half Clive Stuart-Smith in an A team squad scheduled to train at Sandhurst on Monday.

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