England captain Vickery banned for two matches

England captain Phil Vickery was suspended for two matches on Tuesday for tripping United States centre Paul Emerick.

It is a ban that rules the tighthead prop out of the world champions’ key Pool A clash against South Africa in Paris on Friday and the September 22 fixture with Samoa in Nantes.

However, Vickery does have 48 hours to appeal.

The 31-year-old World Cup-winning prop tripped Emerick illegally during Saturday’s 28-10 win in Lens when he stretched out his leg with the Eagles midfielder on course to score a try.

Vickery was subsequently cited by citing commissioner Steve Hinds after South Africa referee Jonathan Kaplan and the on-field officials took no action against him.

Judicial officer Professor Lorne Crerar of Scotland, who heard Vickery’s case on Tuesday, determined his offence was in the “mid-range of seriousness” and therefore imposed a two-match ban.

International Rugby Board (IRB) spokesperson Greg Thomas read out a statement explaining Crerar’s decision after the hearing which said: “The JO [Judicial Officer] deemed the trip was a deliberate act and was delivered with some force, causing the opposing player to be knocked over. The opposing player had no opportunity to take remedial action.

“There were no aggravating circumstances and the JO took into account several mitigating circumstances including the immediate admission of culpability, the player’s good character and his conduct during the hearing.”

England spokesperson Richard Prescott said that, as things stood, South Africa-born prop Matt Stevens would take Vickery’s place in the starting side at the Stade de France against the Springboks with Perry Freshwater moving on to the bench.

Prescott added: “There are 48 hours in which to appeal the decision and consideration is being given to that. In the same circumstances, consideration will be given to the position of the captaincy for this game.”

After Saturday’s match, Vickery said of his trip of Emerick: “It was unfortunate, he had made a good break.
I was back tracking, like a good prop forward, always looking for the corner flag. He chopped inside me and it was just instinctive, trying to stop him. Unfortunately, I tapped him ... There was no malice on my part.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Emerick was banned for five weeks for an unrelated incident later in the same game when he ‘tipped’ Olly Barkley, causing the England outside-half to fall dangerously on his neck.

Vickery’s suspension was just the latest setback England have suffered since arriving in France.

During their Tuesday training session, which took place before Vickery’s hearing, Barkley strained a hip-flexor muscle.

Although he was named on Tuesday in England’s starting side, Barkley was due to go hospital for a scan with coach Brian Ashton saying he’d make a final decision on his fitness to face the Boks on Wednesday.

Jonny Wilkinson, the man Barkley replaced, was not included in either the starting side to face the Springboks or named on the bench after sustaining a right ankle ligament sprain in training last week.

However, Ashton said the injury-plagued Wilkinson, whose extra-time drop goal in the 2003 final four years ago secured England’s victory over Australia four years ago, could yet feature in some capacity if Barkley was ruled out.

Meanwhile, Ashton was forced to keep a space open amongst his replacement backs with Mathew Tait and Danny Hipkiss both suffering with illness.—AFP

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