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Matthew Rees is positive of Wales' hopes without Byrne

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

Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees believes Wales can still beat England in next week's Six Nations opener if full-back Lee Byrne misses out.

British and Irish Lion Byrne has been suspended for two weeks for his part in the Ospreys' 16-man Heineken Cup fiasco against Leicester.

He appeals the independent disciplinary panel's decision on Tuesday.

"I'm pretty positive that whoever plays at full back will do a good job for us," Rees told BBC Sport Wales.

"It's obviously a bit of a blow but we've played a number of Tests in the autumn without Lee and we've got strength in depth to cover that.

"It will be great if he's available though. He's got a number of qualities. He's a great runner, he's great in the air - he's dominant there, and he's got a great kicking game.

"I'm sure any side would love to have him at full back."

Byrne was the Ospreys' extra man in their pivotal 17-12 Heineken Cup Pool Three win last Saturday.

The 29-year-old 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 was 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 win ensured the Ospreys qualification for the Heineken Cup quarter-final while the defeat knocked Leicester out.

Byrne was suspended by an independent disciplinary panel while the Ospreys were fined £21,666 (25,000 Euros)

"At the time I didn't realise what was happening, the game was so quick but that's the way the game goes," added Ospreys and Wales winger Shane Williams.

"They did look for a blame somewhere and unfortunately Lee Byrne had the brunt of it. That's the way it goes."

"Wales will miss him. He's been on top form the last couple of games. It's kind of a harsh way to be left out of the game."

"But there's a couple of good boys who can play there. James Hook had a great Autumn series there.

"You've got the likes of Leigh Halfpenny and the youngsters of Tom Prydie and Kristian Phillips that can push in there if needs be."

Wales coach Warren Gatland was due to name his team to face England on Sunday but has delayed it while he awaits Byrne's appeal.

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see also
Byrne in clear for England game
02 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Byrne ban for Six Nations opener
29 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
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

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