Heineken Cup
Ospreys facing fresh euro probe
February 24, 2010
Ospreys scrum-half Ricky Januarie exploits a gap in the Viadana defence, Ospreys v Viadana, Heineken Cup, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales, December 19, 2009
Springboks scrum-half Ricky Januarie spent just two months with the Ospreys earlier this season © Getty Images

The Ospreys are reportedly facing a European Rugby Cup investigation after Premier Rugby queried the eligibility of South African scrum-half Ricky Januarie.

The Welsh region were scrutinised earlier this year in the wake of their Heineken Cup pool stage victory over Leicester Tigers when fullback Lee Byrne appeared briefly as 16th man. The Ospreys were subsequently fined and Welsh international Byrne had a two-week ban quashed on appeal.

Ospreys' win meant they secured a quarter-final place, booking a tie against Biarritz in San Sebastian on April 10, but according to The Guardian, ERC chiefs have now been prompted by the organisation that represents England's 12 Guinness Premiership clubs, including Leicester, to query whether Januarie should have been allowed to play in the competition. Januarie joined the Ospreys on loan from Cape Town-based Super 14 outfit the Stormers at the end of November, and is now back playing for them in South Africa.

Teams can add one player to their Heineken Cup squad during the tournament's pool stages, but competition rules state "he must have at least a three-month contract with the club." The Stormers announced Januarie's move was a two-month deal when they announced his departure to Wales.

He played in Ospreys' final four group games against Viadana (twice), Clermont Auvergne and Leicester. ERC is now reportedly examining terms of Januarie's loan deal, and Ospreys could face a disciplinary hearing if they are deemed to have broken any rules. That could then result in another fine, points deduction or even expulsion from the competition.

The latter option though, would throw this season's Heineken Cup quarter-finals into chaos, with Leicester taking the eighth-seed spot and Northampton, currently England's sole quarter-final representatives, moving up to seventh. Two ties would need to be rescheduled, with Leicester going to Munster instead of Northampton, who would tackle Biarritz rather than the Ospreys.

The Ospreys say they are "co-operating fully" with tournament chiefs but insist they are not the only side coming under fresh scrutiny. "We were contacted by ERC last month as, we believe, were a number of other clubs, to clarify certain issues around the registration of players in this season's European competitions, in our case regarding Ricky Januarie," an Ospreys spokesperson told PA Sport. "We are co-operating fully with ERC, providing them with all the relevant paperwork relating to Ricky's transfer and registration, and believe that all our actions comply implicitly with tournament regulations.

"We would reiterate that this is not solely an Ospreys issue. It is our understanding that ERC have also made contact with a number of other clubs regarding the issue of registration."

Irish heavyweights Munster also confirmed that they had been contacted by ERC over the short-term contract given to Cheetahs prop Wian du Preez. The Springbok prop joined as cover for Marcus Horan, who was out with illness, and played four Heineken Cup games before returning to the Super 14. The club are reportedly confident that they have no case to answer.

© Scrum.com

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