Danny Grewcock's chances of breaking up the cosy little Leicester arrangement at the heart of the England pack – Martin Johnson and Ben Kay, Tigers both, are the men blocking his route into the red rose second row – depend on him not putting a foot wrong in the run-up to the autumn internationals with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. If three Rugby Football Union disciplinarians decide the foot he placed on Kyran Bracken's jaw during the Saracens-Bath match nine days ago was applied with intent, he can give his immediate Test ambitions a goodbye kiss.
Grewcock, the Bath captain, was sent off by the West Country referee Steve Leyshon for allegedly kicking Bracken in the face. Leyshon did not see the incident, but one of his touch-judges did and declared the contact, which left Bracken in need of stitches, to have been deliberate. Tonight, Grewcock will plead his innocence before the former Rosslyn Park scrum-half Richard Moon, the ex-England prop Jeff Probyn and the RFU's Oxfordshire representative Paul Murphy at a hotel on the outskirts of Coventry. If he fails to convince them, a 12-week suspension will not be out of the question.
Bracken, who once shared a flat with the accused, considers the incident to have been purely accidental and has offered to speak up for his old buddy. The scrum-half is not expected to make a personal appearance, but to provide written testimony in support of an acquittal. According to sources at both Bath and Saracens, there is no video evidence worthy of consideration. Everything depends on Leyshon's report.
Meanwhile, the Welsh Rugby Union has received a good deal of advice from the outspoken owner of the Cardiff club, Peter Thomas – much of it along the lines of: "Pack it in and let someone else have a go". Thomas, a central figure in virtually every major outbreak of club-versus-union politics over the last seven years, used a television appearance to launch his latest ear-bashing, during which he described the current administration as having neither "the brains or the balls to make decisions".
He said the WRU had been "left behind in the world of professional rugby," adding: "I would be ashamed to be on the governing body's committee. They don't figure in the same room as the competition from the rest of the British Isles. At national level, we do not have a successful side. Below that level, we have serious problems."
Thomas led the rebellion by Cardiff and Swansea in the 1998-99 campaign, during which they turned their backs on domestic fixtures in Wales and played rebel matches against English Premiership clubs instead, and is one of the leaders of the so-called "Gang of Six", who want to reduce the number of élite Welsh clubs by a third. After three rounds of this season's Celtic League, Welsh clubs have recorded only three cross-border victories in 11 attempts.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies