Ruck and Maul: French connections let Kelleher keep his sideshow on the road

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The Independent Online

Toulouse's former All Black scrum-half Byron Kelleher has broadcast a rambling apology, available on YouTube, after being charged with drink-driving and affray. Kelleher had been out last month partying into the early hours when he rear-ended a Porsche and received bruising to an eye socket and a shoulder in an ensuing fight. How unlike our own dear French export, Jonny Wilkinson, who wouldn't say boo to a foie gras. However, Kelleher has friends in high places. He is dating Julie Noves, who happens to be the daughter of Toulouse's long-serving coach Guy, and the naughty No 9, whose former squeeze in New Zealand was a porn star, has returned to the side picked by his prospective father-in-law to face Sale in the Heineken Cup today.

Tough penalties for kicking

Sometimes it seems the game is turning into a never-ending episode of 'Criminal Justice'. Reading the 200 pages of judgements in the Harlequins fake-blood case, plus those in the weekly misdemeanours and losses of temper, is to be drawn into a fascinating, oak-panelled world of character witnesses and legal argument and "yes, m'lud, no m'lud". Take last week's case of The Crown (well, the RFU, which is almost the same thing) versus Olivier Azam, the Gloucester hooker charged with kicking Steve Borthwick, the Saracens captain. Rob Burgess, Gloucester's Head of Rugby Operations but, until very recently, a colleague of Borthwick's as England's admin man, was commended by the RFU beak Christopher Quinlan, who said "I cannot remember a better analysis of DVD footage". Yet Burgess's evening centre-stage with Olivier had not started so brightly. An attempt to redraw the charge as "stamping" rather than the more heinous "kicking" was thrown out. "Stamping", you see, is "to bring down one's foot or a downward blow with the foot"; "kicking" is to "strike out or to strike another with the foot". A distinction for we armchair Rumpoles to ponder. So Azam pleaded guilty to kicking – but not deliberately to the face – got 12 weeks and has lodged an appeal.

Kick-off times are a lottery

Sky believe they are doing junior rugby clubs a favour by insisting big matches kick off at 6pm on Saturday evening. It is inconvenient for anyone travelling to a game – visiting supporters especially – and plays havoc with Sunday newspaper deadlines but the argument is that viewers in club bars will stick around and spend valuable money after they play their own games. On ITV, the Guinness Premiership highlights can be confusing. Presenter Craig Doyle was pitchside at Sale with London Irish warming up behind him when he congratulated Quins on their win over Bath. But the Sale match took place the night before Harlequins played. Er, Craig, here's a lottery ticket Ruck and Maul would like a hand with...

Waspish mishmash

A short quotation from Ian McGeechan's new book, "Lion Man", on the coach's last season at Wasps, when he was often away making Lions tour preparations. "What I should have said was that I would take a sabbatical from Wasps," wrote McGeechan. "However, it turned into a mishmash." That was obvious while it was happening and we wonder if another club will get into the same mess in 2013.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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