Woodward cleared by RFU

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The Independent Online

If England's World Cup-winning form vanished faster than a Greek sprinter on their benighted summer tour of the southern hemisphere, the furore surrounding the sending-off of Simon Shaw in the second Test in Auckland hung around far longer - not least because of the reaction of the coach, Clive Woodward.

If England's World Cup-winning form vanished faster than a Greek sprinter on their benighted summer tour of the southern hemisphere, the furore surrounding the sending-off of Simon Shaw in the second Test in Auckland hung around far longer - not least because of the reaction of the coach, Clive Woodward. Yesterday, the Rugby Football Union drew its own line under the affair by exonerating Woodward for his after-match outburst, during which he used the words "ridiculous" and "bullshit" to describe Shaw's dismissal for dropping a knee on the All Black lock Keith Robinson.

The match referee, Nigel Williams of Wales, and the linesman involved in the incident, Australia's Stuart Dickinson, did not respond to Woodward's criticism, but the New Zealand Rugby Football Union were sufficiently miffed to bring the matter to the attention of the International Rugby Board. They in turn asked the RFU to investigate any possible breach of discipline by the coach.

According to Jeff Blackett, the union's disciplinary officer, there was no breach. "I have reviewed the evidence... and have decided that although Clive Woodward made some comments that questioned the merits of the decision to send off Simon Shaw, any criticism was very minor," Blackett said. "These comments were not prejudicial to the interests of the game, nor did they bring the game into disrepute." Blackett has, however, "reminded" the England management of the requirements of the code of conduct for after-match behaviour.

Meanwhile, two World Cup backs, the Queensland centre Elton Flatley and the New South Wales full-back Mat Rogers, return to Australia's 36-man squad for the four-Test trip to the British Isles and France in November. Both missed the Tri-Nations tournament with injury.

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