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WRU chief executive Dennis Gethin
"The mistakes...were made in good faith"
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BBC Wales's Gavin Thomas
"The likelihood is that Howarth and Sinkinson will be ineligible"
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Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Rugby chiefs' verdict on eligibility
Shane Howarth arrives at the IRB hearing in Dublin
Shane Howarth arrives at the IRB hearing in Dublin
Welsh and Scottish rugby chiefs have been arriving at a special hearing to answer charges that they fielded ineligible players at international level.

Wales stars Shane Howarth and Brett Sinkinson - both New-Zealand born - have also arrived at an International Rugby Board-appointed disciplinary hearing in Dublin on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Scotland international David Hilton also attended, along with the two countries' unions.

We need to come out of this at the end of the day with a system that does not break down again

IRB chairman Vernon Pugh
The three-man panel, chaired by South African judge Jannie Lubbe, will deliver its verdict after hearing all the evidence, and, if necessary, dish out punishments.

None of Howarth, Sinkinson and Hilton have represented their countries since allegations surfaced in March questioning their ancestry.

Both Howarth and Sinkinson, who have won 33 caps between them, claimed to qualify through Welsh grandparents.

The likelihood is that the pair will be rendered ineligible for Test match rugby until they have served a 36-month residency period in Wales - a condition they have already started fulfilling.

Meanwhile 41-times-capped Hilton believed that his grandfather was from Edinburgh, not Bristol as has been subsequently discovered.

Shane Howarth
Howarth - claimed to have a Welsh grandfather

It is the Welsh Rugby Union which could be hit hardest, especially if the panel find them guilty of misconduct regarding the players' backgrounds.

The sanctions range from a warning to a fine and also include possible cancellation of points or suspension from a tournament.

WRU chief executive Dennis Gethin said he hopes the inquiry will draw a line under the whole issue.

But he does not believe that Wales should shoulder the majority of the blame.

"I don't think there's any doubt about the non-eligibility of previous players in other countries," he said.

Legal challenges

A capped player deemed ineligible will find his international career at an end as he cannot switch to playing for another nation under current rules.

The board has also approved a proposal that uncapped players who go on an overseas tour will be ineligible for another country.

Colin Charvis
Colin Charvis' debut is in question

This would have stopped Australian-born Jason Jones-Hughes switching to Wales last year.

The IRB hopes to approve an updated set of guidelines on eligibility when it meets in October.

It said the rules had to be robust enough to withstand possible legal challenges.

"We need to come out of this at the end of the day with a system that does not break down again," said IRB Chairman Vernon Pugh.

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See also:

31 Mar 00 | Wales
Charvis' Welsh roots in doubt
21 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Sinkinson: I'm not eligible for Wales
23 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Celts face player punishment
31 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Rugby chiefs deny eligibility delay
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