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Page last updated at 21:27 GMT, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 22:27 UK

Azam's 12-week suspension upheld

Gloucester's Olivier Azam
Azam has 10 international caps for France

Gloucester hooker Olivier Azam will serve his full 12-week ban for kicking England captain Steve Borthwick in the head following an appeal hearing.

The three-man panel agreed with Gloucester's argument that the ex-France international's offence merited an eight rather than 12-week ban.

However, it also ruled that a further six weeks should be added for Azam's previous disciplinary record.

The 14 was then reduced to 12 weeks because of the player's guilty plea.

Azam, who has only just returned from a nine-week ban for eye gouging, will miss four Heineken Cup matches and six Premiership games before being free to play again from 29 December.

Saracens second-row Borthwick needed five stitches in an eye wound following the incident on 27 September.

Gloucester's head of rugby operations Rob Burgess said Azam was paying a "heavy price" for a second appearance in front of a Rugby Football Union judicial panel in a short space of time.

"We are disappointed that the length of the ban remains at 12 weeks which is a significant absence for an offence where there was no deliberate intent to cause injury," said Burgess.

606: DEBATE

"Olivier will now miss three months of rugby at a critical time of the season, which is damaging for both him and the club.

"He is paying a heavy price for having so recently come off his only other relevant ban in nearly 200 games over nine seasons for Gloucester.

"We just hope that there is consistency applied not only across the English game but also across Europe for similar cases as this is vital out of fairness to players and for maintaining the credibility of rugby in the eyes of supporters."

Despite the panel's conclusion, Gloucester were satisfied that Azam's offence was reduced from the 12-week, top-end to eight-week, mid-range category.

Burgess added: "We feel this was more in line with the nature of the offence which, as the original panel judged, was caused by Olivier kicking out in an attempt to free his ankle when it was being twisted rather than in a deliberate attempt to cause injury and or kick Steve Borthwick in the face.

"I'm pleased in that respect as we felt Olivier's reputation would have been unfairly tarnished had that distinction not been made."



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see also
Borthwick admits eye injury fears
12 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Hooker Azam receives 12-week ban
06 Oct 09 |  English
Saracens 19-16 Gloucester
27 Sep 09 |  English
Bath 20-20 Leicester
26 Sep 09 |  English
Hooker Azam banned for nine weeks
07 May 09 |  Gloucester


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