O'Driscoll to face France after being cleared of stamping

Click to follow

The Italians found themselves on the wrong end of two distinctly dodgy tries and were positively apoplectic at the failure of the inexperienced English official, Dave Pearson, to refer the second and most wounding of them, scored by the Ulster wing Tommy Bowe, for video analysis. After berating Pearson for what they considered a gross failure of judgement, they then accused O'Driscoll of subjecting their hooker, Fabio Ongaro, to a bout of illicit rucking. As it turned out, they did not win that decision either.

John Flockhart, the citing commissioner from Scotland, did point the finger at one Irishman, however: Denis Leamy, the No 8 from Munster, who was formally accused of stamping on Paul Griffen, the Italian scrum-half. His case will be heard in London tomorrow. Another disciplinary issue arising from the game at Lansdowne Road, thealleged biting of the Irish back-rower Simon Easterby by an Italian forward, is still the subject of Flockhart's investigations, even though the limit on such deliberations expired yesterday afternoon. The commissioner requested, and was granted, more time.

By coincidence, Leamy was the innocent party in a biting incident that left a stain on the Heineken Cup match between Munster and Sale in Limerick last month. Epi Taione, the out-sized Tongan who played for the Premiership club that evening, was accused of biting his opponent on the arm. Yesterday, he admitted the offence and was banned for the rest of the season. It might have been worse. The panel, chaired by Wyn Williams QC of Wales, should have suspended him for a minimum of six months. Instead, they deemed an 18-week ban sufficient.

France, smarting after their unexpected defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday, have whistled up half a dozen very good reinforcements. Raphael Ibanez, the hooker who captained them in the 1999 World Cup and now plays at Wasps, has been included in a 28-man squad, as have the powerful Bourgoin lock Pascal Pape and two world-class flankers in Serge Betsen, the destructive tackler from Biarritz, and Olivier Magne, who joined London Irish at the start of the season. Outside the scrum, the hierarchy have drafted in the Clermont Auvergne wing Aurelien Rougerie and the Biarritz centre Damien Traille. Traille can expect to start.

In the absence of the injured Yannick Jauzion, the world's best centre, France failed to tap into their customary sophistication in midfield; indeed, Ludovic Valbon of Brive suffered all manner of torment and indignity. Ibanez might make it into the squad ahead of Dimitri Szarzewski; Betsen, so central to the Tricolore cause, could easily get a run from the start in a revamped breakaway unit.

Wales, meanwhile, spent yesterday assessing the structural damage caused by the 47-13 defeat at Twickenham. Already stripped of a dozen senior players through injury and suspension - the likes of Tom Shanklin, Gavin Henson, Chris Horsman, Brent Cockbain and Ryan Jones were badly missed at the weekend - they have now lost Gareth Cooper, the Newport-Gwent Dragons scrum-half, to a dislocated shoulder that will incapacitate him for the remainder of the season. Andy Williams of Bath has been called into the squad for the meeting with a buoyant Scotland at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday.

In addition, there are serious doubts over the midfielder Ceri Sweeney, who missed the humiliation at Twickenham, and Adam Jones, who started at tight-head prop but left the field with a "dead" leg. Ben Broster, who recenly extended his Premiership contract with Saracens, is the nominated cover for the stricken Osprey.

Comments