Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Julien Dupuy's 23-week gouging ban is anti-French, says Stade president

The Stade Français president, Max Guazzini, will fight the 23-week ban given to Julien Dupuy for eye-gouging Ulster's Stephen Ferris during last month's Heineken Cup match in Belfast, calling the punishment unjustified and anti-French.

Under French law, the scrum-half's ban, which was reduced by one week to 23 on appeal, has to be ratified by the relevant body in France, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby. LNR has the power to reduce or overturn the suspension, meaning Dupuy would be able to play in the French league while remaining banned from the Heineken Cup.

"It is a very heavy sanction," Guazzini said. "They European Rugby Cup Ltd wanted to make an example and the fact Dupuy is French probably played a role. Ferris told the hearing there was no gouging and that he was slapped and the ban was excessive, totally unjustified. We will not leave it here and we will be making representations to LNR and the French Rugby Federation."

The France coach, Marc Lièvremont, has a problem at scrum-half with Dupuy banned and Dimitri Yachvili missing at least the first three rounds of the Six Nations after suffering a knee injury playing for Biarritz against Stade last weekend.

France are the bookmakers' favourites to win the Six Nations but Ugo Monye believes England have what it takes to win the tournament for the first time since 2003, the year they went on to win the World Cup.

"We definitely should go into the Six Nations believing that we can win it," the England wing said. "It will be difficult. It is definitely possible that we can win it and we have to have belief to go with our high expectations. We have players who are playing well for their teams domestically and we just need them to transfer that form on to the international stage. We have excellent coaches and the criticism we all received last November made us stronger as a unit."

Chris Ashton, the Northampton wing who was included in the England squad this week, has signed a new two-year contract with the Saints, while Scott Lawson and Alasdair Strokosch, both Scotland internationals, have agreed new deals with Gloucester.

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