Two-week ban for Byrne
Lion to miss Six Nations opener
Last Updated: January 29, 2010 7:46pm
Byrne: foot injury
Ospreys full-back Lee Byrne has been banned for two weeks by an independent European Rugby Cup disciplinary committee, sitting in Dublin, after admitting misconduct.
The charge was in connection with the '16th man' row during last Saturday's Heineken Cup game against Leicester.
Ospreys, who also admitted a misconduct complaint, have been fined 25,000 euros.
But the disciplinary panel ruled there had been "no material effect on the match". The result therefore stands, and Ospreys will meet Biarritz in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals on April 10.
Leicester lodged an official complaint with ERC after the second-half incident at Swansea's Liberty Stadium.
Byrne, who went off with a bloodied toe and was replaced by Sonny Parker, returned three minutes later without any of his Ospreys team-mates going off.
There was confusion on the touchline, with match referee Alan Lewis berating an Ospreys touchline official, while he also did not award Leicester the penalty they should have had for Ospreys temporarily fielding an extra player.
Leicester claimed Byrne was involved in halting a break by Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs as Tigers looked to claw back a 17-12 deficit.
Fly-half Dan Biggar eventually departed the action, as Ospreys moved back to 15 players.
In a statement, ERC said: "Ospreys and Mr Byrne pleaded guilty to the misconduct complaints.
"During the hearing, the independent disciplinary committee heard submissions from representatives of ERC and Ospreys and from a number of witnesses, and considered statements from various individuals and video evidence from the match.
"The committee also heard submissions from representatives of Leicester Tigers.
"The independent Disciplinary Committee found that Mr Byrne had re-entered the pitch without the referee's permission and that he knew, or ought to have known, that he needed that permission.
"The committee found that this represented a clear breach of the substitution protocol, which forms part of the Heineken Cup 2009/10 tournament rules, and that the club could have done more to ensure that such a breach did not occur."
ERC continued: "However, the committee found that the breach had not been deliberate or premeditated on the part of the club's management, and that there had been no material effect on the match.
"In the circumstances, the committee imposed a fine of euros 25,000 on the Ospreys and suspended Mr Byrne from playing rugby for a period of two weeks, up to and including Friday, February 12, 2010.
"Mr Byrne will be free to play on Saturday, February 13, 2010."
Byrne, the Ospreys and ERC, whose disciplinary officer Roger O'Connor brought the misconduct complaints, have the right to appeal, but not Leicester.
The ban is a blow to Wales boss Warren Gatland, who was expected to name British and Irish Lion Byrne in his side to face England on February 6.
Gatland is due to name his team on Sunday evening, with Byrne having been lined up to reclaim the number 15 shirt after missing Wales' entire autumn Test programme through injury.
Byrne will be eligible to play in Wales' second Six Nations game - against Scotland in Cardiff, the following Saturday.
Following the news of Byrne's ban, the Welsh Rugby Union announced that the player would remain with Wales' Six Nations squad at their training base and they were considering a possible appeal.
The WRU said: "Lee Byrne is reviewing the decision of an independent disciplinary committee to ban him from playing for two weeks, up to and including Friday, February 12.
"The committee, sitting in Dublin, heard misconduct complaints against the player and the Ospreys over allegations concerning their Heineken Cup Pool Three round six match against Leicester at the Liberty Stadium.
"The player will remain with the Wales RBS 6 Nations squad at The National Centre of Excellence in the Vale Resort and is taking advice on a possible appeal."