Unions avoid fines over 'grannygate' saga
May 3, 2000

The Welsh Rugby Union and Scottish Rugby Union have avoided fines over the sport's so-called `grannygate' saga escaping with a reprimand.

A three-man International Rugby Board judicial panel heard the WRU admit a charge of fielding ineligible players at Test match level this year.

As a result New Zealand-born pair Shane Howarth and Brett Sinkinson have had their international careers put on hold.

They must now serve the three-year residential qualification in order to resume playing Test match rugby.

In Newport full-back Howarth's case that means the summer of 2002, while Neath flanker Sinkinson will qualify in September next year.

The players, with 33 caps between them, both understood they had Welsh-born grandparents but could not produce documentary evidence in support of those claims.

The panel, chaired by South African judge Jannie Lubbe, ordered the WRU to pay costs of the two-day hearing in Dublin.

``We are very pleased with the verdict - the decision is a very fair one,'' WRU secretary Dennis Gethin told BBC Radio Wales.

``We've conducted our own internal investigation into the matter and errors were made, but not on a deliberate basis. The whole episode has been a chastening experience.''

The SRU were found guilty of the same offence, severely reprimanded and also ordered to pay costs.

Their 41-times capped Bristol-born prop Dave Hilton must now, like Howarth and Sinkinson, serve the residency qualification period.

Hilton was picked by Scotland on the strength of an Edinburgh-born grandfather, who it recently transpired actually came from Bristol

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