Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Armitage to appeal RFU ban

Delon Armitage

England international Delon Armitage is to appeal against his eight-week ban imposed by the Rugby Football Union.

The London Irish full-back was suspended for "conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game", ruling him out of action until March 17 and effectively the entire RBS 6 Nations Championship.

Armitage was found guilty of pushing and using threatening and/or abusive and obscene language towards a doping control officer during a routine test immediately after Irish's Aviva Premiership defeat against Bath on January 1. But Armitage and his club Irish have now issued a strongly-worded statement, hoping the player can be given "a proper opportunity" to prepare his case.

The statement read: "London Irish is disappointed with the outcome of the RFU disciplinary hearing, and Delon Armitage will be lodging an appeal against it.

"Having been given just 48 hours' notice of the charges and the hearing, Delon hopes to be given a proper opportunity to prepare his case in order that the appeal panel may reach a decision which takes into account the circumstances of the incident.

"Delon Armitage does not accept that the incident is analogous to abuse of a match official, and he believes that applying a tariff applicable to on-field offences, when this was an incident largely in the privacy of the dressing room, has resulted in the imposition of a disproportionate sanction."

Armitage, who has won 19 caps, is a member of Martin Johnson's England elite player squad. He made three appearances as a replacement during the recent autumn Test series, and was expected to be part of England's match-day squad for their Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff on February 4.

As things stand, Armitage's ban means he will also be unavailable for the Six Nations appointments with Italy, France and Scotland, with his suspension expiring just two days before England face Ireland in Dublin.

Armitage, 27, appeared before a three-man RFU panel chaired by the Union's disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett. And Blackett afterwards condemned the player's behaviour following the game at Irish's Madejski Stadium home ground, which Bath won 25-24 through an injury-time penalty.

Blackett said: "His behaviour was completely unacceptable. It brought discredit on himself and his club and failed to uphold one of the core values of the game - respect."

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