Three-week ban rules Murray out of Calcutta Cup

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The Independent Online

The Scotland lock Scott Murray was banned yesterday for three weeks after being found guilty of recklessly kicking the Wales second-row Ian Gough in the Six Nations match in Cardiff last weekend.

A three-man disciplinary panel sitting in London suspended the Edinburgh player until 6 March, which means Murray misses the Calcutta Cup match against England at Murrayfield on 25 February.

The incident occurred in the 23rd minute of the match after Murray, 30, was late-tackled by Gough. The Scot kicked out and caught Gough under the eye. Murray, who has 71 caps, apologised instantly and even the referee Steve Walsh appeared reluctant to show him the red card.

The decision by the panel - Paul Mauriac, of France, and Ireland's Dr Barry O'Driscoll and Peter Boyle may well be appealed, once the Scottish management team has received the written reasons for the sentence. They have 48 hours from receipt to appeal.

A spokesperson said that the Scots had presented "a robust defence", in which Murray stressed the lack of intent. The panel was also presented with a statement in support of Murray from Gough. The Scotland coach, Frank Hadden, who attended the hearing, said: "I'm disappointed with the outcome."

Gavin Henson begins his bid to regain his place in the Wales squad when he returns to action for Ospreys against Borders tomorrow following his 51-day ban for elbowing Leicester prop Alex Moreno in December.

The France coach Bernard Laporte has recalled Thomas Castaignède and Serge Betsen into a 30-man squad for the Six Nations match against Italy in Paris on 25 February.

Leinster have signed the Australia scrum-half Chris Whitaker on a two-year contract. Whitaker, 31, who has won 31 Wallaby caps takes up his new contract in the summer.

The Gloucester full-back Jon Goodridge and winger James Bailey have signed on for a further two years at Kingsholm, until 2008.

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