Ruck and Maul: The banned played on – so is Worcester no longer part of the world?

It has been a while since our last episode of CSI Rugby, and the latest case is: when is a ban not a ban? This is how the European Rugby Cup tournament rules, as laid out in their participation agreement, defined the three-year suspension given to former Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards: "... to suspend the Person from participating in any aspect of rugby union (including coaching, officiating, selection, team management, administration or promotion of rugby union, playing and training as part of a team or squad) in relation to the Tournament and other current and/or future events organised by ERC (and, subject to the applicable regulations of other relevant rugby authorities, in relation to rugby activities outside ERC's events) for the period of suspension..." The International Rugby Board agreed that the suspension fell under their "universality principle" so that it applied worldwide. It might be thought that Richards' recent advisory role for Worcester Rugby Club would fall within the definition of "participating in any aspect of rugby union" but the RFU's disciplinary officer, Judge Jeff Blackett, in consultation with the IRB decided otherwise.

Sackey barks up right tree

The Barbarians' team to meet England today includes Florian Fritz, Cédric Heymans and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde alongside their Toulouse team-mate Byron Kelleher, and many of the backs' calls in training in Hyde Park last Thursday were in French. Good practice for another Barbarian, Paul Sackey, who is joining Toulon next season. Perhaps that's why the Barbarians – who are bing coached by Toulon's Philippe Saint-André – picked him? Sackey is even going Gallic with his new pet Rudy, a puppy of the Dogue de Bordeaux breed. Next spring Nick Mallett, who presided over the Barbarians' defeat of the All Blacks at Twickenham last November, will be coach again when the invitation club face Richmond to celebrate the club's 150th anniversary and Bedford in the annual Mobbs Memorial Match.

Fluent display by Gibson

England Under-20 flanker Jamie Gibson will meet a rare language barrier when the Junior World Championship kicks off in Argentina next Saturday. The London Irish player is reading Classics at Oxford University, so has a working knowledge of Greek and Latin, and he also learnt French, Russian and Mandarin while at school. "I'd like to teach myself fluent Spanish or Italian in the next three years," Gibson said.

Silence of the Baa-baas

There are still some parts of the rugby world Sky cannot reach. England's midweek fixtures on tour against the Australian Barbarians are not being televised locally so they will be absent from UK screens too. BBC Radio will not be carrying live commentary either, but they and TalkSport, among other commercial stations, will have regular updates from Perth and Gosford on the mornings of 8 and 15 June respectively.

Ripley's still a superstar

There is no one better to leave the final words of the season to than Andy Ripley, the 62-year-old former England and Lions No 8 honoured at last Wednesday's Rugby Players Association dinner. The one-time titan of Rosslyn Park and the 'Superstars' TV series appeared on stage, frail and wheelchair-bound from the ravages of prostate cancer, but with his empathy and gentle mockery intact. "Rugby can be cruel," he told a hushed 1,200-strong audience, in reference to a list of players announced as retiring, before making a promise: "I will not turn my face to the wall".

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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