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Leinster likely to appeal Jack McGrath stamping ban

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster are weighing up the pros and cons of appealing the three-week ban handed down to Jack McGrath yesterday which means he will miss their pivotal European meetings with Castres and Wasps.

The news comes as a major blow to Matt O'Connor who will be without his top two looseheads for the remaining European games, with Michael Bent and Maks van Dyk next in line.

The Ireland prop was found guilty of stamping on his international team-mate Rory Best during the second half of Saturday's win over Ulster by a three-man independent Guinness PRO12 disciplinary panel chaired by Wales' Roger Morris.

After reviewing video footage of the incident and hearing submissions from, and on behalf, of McGrath the committee determined that his stamp had been deliberate and fell under the mid-range of offences.

That brings with it a five-week ban, but the St Mary's man's good record and conduct at the hearing was taken into account and it was reduced to three.

Leinster will hold a board meeting at their UCD headquarters where they will decide whether to appeal. The province have been left surprised by the suspension given Ulster No 8 Roger Wilson escaped any sanction for a similar action on McGrath earlier in the game.

The province also confirmed the departure of out-half Jimmy Gopperth, who will join Wasps next season.

Prop Fraser Balmain, meanwhile, has been become the third Leicester player this week to agree a new contract with the Aviva Premiership club.

Tigers' announcement of a new deal for the 23-year-old follows fresh terms for fly-half Owen Williams and lock Graham Kitchener.

Balmain has made nine starts for Leicester this term, with a further six appearances off the bench.

"Fraser has been doing a good job for us, especially this season, when we have been without some of our more senior players in the forward pack," said Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill.

"He is improving all the time, and, as a prop, he still has time on his side to continue that improvement.

"There is a very strong pool of front-rowers at the club, and I'm happy that Fraser wants to continue to be a part of that."

Championship club Bristol have swooped to sign former England wing Tom Varndell.

Bristol announced that Varndell would join them from Wasps on a two-year deal at the end of this season.

It represents a major coup for the west country club, who are favourites to win the Championship this term and secure an Aviva Premiership return.

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