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Page last updated at 18:44 GMT, Friday, 29 January 2010

Wales full-back Lee Byrne banned for Six Nations opener

Lee Byrne
Ospreys full-back Lee Byrne's blood-bin began the 16-man confusion

Lee Byrne will miss Wales' Six Nations opener with England after receiving a two-week ban for his part in the Ospreys' 16-man fiasco with Leicester.

The British and Irish Lions full-back has been suspended by an independent disciplinary panel while the Ospreys have been fined £21,666 (25,000 Euros).

Byrne, though, will be available for Wales' second Six Nations game with Scotland in Cardiff on 13 February.

Byrne was the Ospreys' extra man in their 17-12 Heineken Cup pool win.

The 29-year-old, who had previously pleaded his innocence in the saga, and the Ospreys both pleaded guilty to the misconduct complaints at an independent disciplinary committee in Dublin chaired by Pat Barriscale.

Both Byrne and Ospreys have a right to appeal but Tigers' hopes for the game to be replayed have been dashed.

The Ospreys star missed Wales' autumn Tests due to a foot injury when his regional team-mate James Hook deputised for him at full-back.

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So the versatile 24-year-old is favourite to start at full-back at Twickenham on Saturday week although he did pick up a knock to his shoulder in the now infamous Heineken Cup Pool Three win over Leicester.

Byrne had gone off in the second-half of the Heineken Cup Pool Three clash suffering from a dislocated and bloodied toe and was replaced by centre Sonny Parker.

But Byrne sent back on in the Liberty Stadium three minutes later after treatment without any of his team-mates going off.

A Tigers player pointed out the Ospreys' numerical advantage to referee Alan Lewis, who then berated an Ospreys touchline official for not informing the match fourth official that Byrne had returned.

The official also did not award Leicester the penalty they should have had for Ospreys temporarily fielding an extra player.

Fly-half Dan Biggar eventually departed as the Ospreys returned to 15 men to hold on during a torrid finale of constant Leicester pressure.

Leicester claimed Byrne was involved in halting a break by scrum-half Ben Youngs as Tigers looked to claw back a 17-12 deficit.

The triumph ensured the Ospreys qualification for the Heineken Cup quarter-final while the defeat knocked Leicester out.

In a statement, ERC said: "Ospreys and Mr Byrne pleaded guilty to the misconduct complaints.

"During the hearing, the independent disciplinary committee heard submissions from representatives of ERC and Ospreys and from a number of witnesses, and considered statements from various individuals and video evidence from the match.

"The committee also heard submissions from representatives of Leicester Tigers.

"The independent Disciplinary Committee found that Mr Byrne had re-entered the pitch without the referee's permission and that he knew, or ought to have known, that he needed that permission.

"The committee found that this represented a clear breach of the substitution protocol, which forms part of the Heineken Cup 2009/10 tournament rules, and that the club could have done more to ensure that such a breach did not occur."

Byrne is one of Wales' key players and was badly missed by coach Warren Gatland in the autumn as they slumped to defeats to New Zealand and Australia.

A statement from the Welsh Rugby Union said: "Lee Byrne is reviewing the decision of an independent disciplinary committee to ban him from playing for two weeks up to and including Friday, 12 February.

"The player will remain with the Wales RBS Six Nations squad at the National Centre of Excellence in the Vale Resort and is taking advice on a possible appeal."

Leicester Tigers chairman Leicester Tigers chairman Peter Tom said: "It was important that events surrounding this incident were investigated to help prevent this situation happening again, especially in such a high-profile fixture in Europe's elite club competition.

"We will await receipt of the full written verdict before making any further comment."



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see also
Saints face Munster Euro reunion
24 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Ospreys 17-12 Leicester Tigers
23 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup 2009/10
22 Dec 09 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup tables
09 Aug 06 |  Tables
European rugby archive
16 Aug 06 |  Rugby Union
Coming up next on Scrum V...
03 Nov 08 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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