Amlin Challenge Cup
Rees and Attwood hit with hefty bans
January 6, 2011
Rees is set to miss all of this year's Six Nations after being handed a 12-week ban © Getty Images
Wales scrum-half Richie Rees will miss this season's entire Six Nations after being hit with a 12-week ban and Gloucester lock Dave Attwood has been ruled out of England's opening two Championship games due to a nine-week suspension.
Both players were cited for foul play after Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup matches just before Christmas. Cardiff Blues star Rees was reported for making contact with the eyes/eye area of Northampton's England hooker Dylan Hartley during a Heineken pool clash between the teams. And Attwood faced a complaint that he stamped on La Rochelle prop Petrisor Toderasc in a Challenge Cup clash at Kingsholm.
Both players have the right of appeal, but nine times-capped Rees is currently sidelined until March 31, while Attwood is out until February 21.
Rees is Wales' current scrum-half bench cover for Mike Phillips and would have been an important part of head coach Warren Gatland's Six Nations plans. The 27-year-old pleaded not guilty to the citing complaint on the basis that any contact made with Saints skipper Hartley had been accidental.
Independent judicial officer, Irishman Pat Barriscale, reviewed evidence at today's Dublin hearing, including several angles of the incident from television footage and medical statements relating to Hartley's injuries. He also heard telephone evidence from Hartley, and submissions by Rees, Blues chief executive Robert Norster and European Rugby Cup disciplinary officer Roger O'Connor.
Barriscale determined that Rees was guilty of foul play, although he found contact with Hartley had been reckless and not intentional. The Blues tonight said they would await ERC's written judgment and had no comment to make on Rees until that was received.
The 23-year-old Atwood was cited following Gloucester's Amlin Challenge Cup defeat to La Rochelle on December 19, when his stamp left prop Petrisor Toderasc with facial damage. The period of suspension was backdated to begin on the day of the match, taking into account the second-rower's two-week suspension by Gloucester.
Attwood pleaded guilty to the charge but denied that he had intended to injure Toderasc's face. His actions were deemed to merit a high-end sanction of 18 weeks but the judicial officer, Robert Williams, halved the ban as a result of the player's 'guilty plea, clean record, clear remorse and exemplary conduct at the hearing'.
An ERC statement read: "The Judicial Officer did not find that Mr Attwood intended to make contact with Mr Toderasc's face, but he determined that Mr Attwood was guilty of foul play in contravention of Law 10.4(b) in that he had stamped on Mr Toderasc.
"Having also concluded that the stamp was intentional and that it had caused injury, the Judicial Officer found that the offence was in the top-end range of the level of seriousness for an offence of this type and decided on an entry point of 18 weeks.
"Having taken into account mitigating factors, including Mr Attwood's guilty plea, clean record, clear remorse and exemplary conduct at the hearing, the Judicial Officer reduced the period of suspension by the maximum amount of 50 per cent and suspended the player for a period of nine weeks."
Attwood faced two charges of stamping in the wake of England's tour draw with the Australian Barbarians in Perth last June, but they were thrown out on a technicality. An agreement between the RFU and their Australian counterparts stipulated independent citing commissioners would be appointed for two midweek games against the Barbarians but the host nation appointed Australian Scott Nowland for the Perth encounter.
England successfully argued the charges against Attwood were not valid because Nowland could not be classed as independent and they had not been informed about his appointment.
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