One-week ban rules Spencer out of European Cup game

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The Independent Online

Northampton's fly-half Carlos Spencer was last night found guilty of a dangerous tackle on Newport-Gwent Dragons' scrum-half Gareth Cooper and was banned for one week. The ban means the former All Black misses the Heineken European Cup tie against Biarritz but will be back on 28 October against Borders.

Spencer was found guilty at a three-man Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing in Bristol chaired by Christopher Quinlan. He had been sent to the sin-bin for the incident which took place on 7 October, but was subsequently reported by citing officer Alan Mansell.

There were fears last night that the Bath and England fly-half-cum-inside centre Olly Barkley fractured his right index finger against Saracens on Sunday. It was originally thought Barkley had only dislocated the digit, but after the player went for X-rays yesterday the club feared the worst.

If he has fractured his finger it means Barkley, 24, will be out of action for up to four weeks. He would therefore miss England's opening two autumn Tests at Twickenham, against New Zealand on 5 November and Argentina the following weekend.

The club-versus-country row so far has been whether Andy Farrell should play at flanker or centre but the former Wigan Warrior popped up in the unlikely position of fly-half last night. Playing for Saracens against Leicester A in a friendly, Farrell started at inside centre as he continues to ease his way into union, but switched to fly-half after 38 minutes because of an injury to Saracens' only available No 10, Frankie Neale. Farrell demonstrated, for the first time in union, his renowned goal-kicking skills, landing 18 points from four penalties and three conversions as Saracens won 38-28.

England's players received unexpected criticism last night, from Munster and Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara, who said: "I honestly think, for Munster and Ireland, we've got more talented players than the English in many positions. I watch some Premiership rugby and the way they hype these English guys is unbelievable." All of which should make Munster's Heineken Cup opener at Leicester on Sunday interesting viewing.

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