Ospreys tighten grip on Heineken Cup qtrs

The Ospreys’ grip on a European Cup quarter-final place appeared to be strengthened Tuesday when the Welsh region were included in a fixture list for this season’s last eight.

 

The Welsh region beat two-time European champions Leicester 17-12 in Pool Six on Saturday to seemingly secure their place in the knockout stages.

But Leicester protested that no action had been taken against the Ospreys when, instead of the regulation 15 players, they briefly had 16 in action late on when Lee Byrne returned from a blood binning only for temporary replacement Sonny Parker to stay on the pitch at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium.


European Rugby Cup (ERC), the tournament organisers, said Monday they had received a letter of complaint from Leicester and that disciplinary officer Roger O’Connor was “currently gathering statements and evidence from both clubs and the match officials relating to the incident in the second half”.


That left open the possibility of the Ospreys being expelled from the tournament although, as this appears to be precluded by tournament rules, a fine would seem the more likely punishment.


But when the fixture list for the last eight was published Tuesday it showed the Ospreys away to French club Biarritz on April 10 with no mention at all of Leicester.


In addition to the ERC inquiry, Leicester chairman Peter Tom is writing to ERC counterpart Jean-Pierre Lux and have instructed lawyers to represent them.


A statement issued by the Tigers on Tuesday said: “The Leicester Tigers board of directors have reviewed the footage of Saturday’s Heineken (European) Cup Pool Three game against Ospreys and believe there is a clear case for concern.


“The board has a duty to the club and the other teams in the competition to do everything in their power to help ERC to determine, as fully and speedily as possible, who was responsible for a 16th player being on the pitch.


“To that end, the club have lodged an official written complaint with ERC which they are now in the process of investigating.


“Everyone at the club is totally committed to supporting the investigation in any way they can.”


The statement added: “Leicester Tigers chairman, Peter Tom CBE, is also writing to the chairman of ERC, Jean-Pierre Lux, to detail our concerns in respect of the incident, and the club has instructed a leading firm of sports law specialists to represent them in this matter.”


Leicester argue the Ospreys gained an unfair advantage, with Byrne helping thwart a Tigers attack instigated by scrum-half Ben Youngs during his time on the field as a 16th player.


Eventual champions England were fined 10,000 pounds during the 2003 World Cup when wing Dan Luger briefly appeared as a 16th player during their group victory over Samoa in Melbourne.


European Cup quarter-finals
April 09: Leinster (IRL) v Clermont Auvergne (FRA) (2000GMT)
April 10: Biarritz (FRA) v Ospreys (WAL) (1500GMT)
April 10: Munster (IRL) v Northampton (ENG) (1730GMT)
April 11: Toulouse (FRA) v Stade Francais (FRA) (1630GMT)

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