Byrne free to face England
Wales full-back's two-week ban reduced to fine on appeal
Last Updated: 05/02/10 3:31pm
Byrne: appeal joy
Wales full-back Lee Byrne is available to play against England in Saturday's Six Nations opener after succeeding in his appeal against a two-week ban.
"The independent appeal committee, chaired by Rod McKenzie (Scotland) and also comprising Professor Lorne Crerar (Scotland) and Bill Dunlop (Scotland), found that Mr Byrne had demonstrated that the original decision had been in error and the sanction should be varied to a fine of 5,000 euros. Mr Byrne is free to play again."
ERC statement Quotes of the week
Byrne had been handed the sanction for his brief appearance as an illegal 16th player during the Ospreys' Heineken Cup victory over Leicester on January 23.
He admitted a misconduct charge and was originally suspended but appealed against the severity of the punishment at an independent hearing in Glasgow on Tuesday.
A three-man panel ruled in his favour, replacing the ban with a fine of 5,000 euros, thereby making him available for his country's Twickenham trip.
Byrne appears likely to start in the number 15 shirt as Wales head coach Warren Gatland delayed naming his team pending the appeal outcome.
In a statement, Heineken Cup organisers European Rugby Cup said: "An independent appeal committee allowed the appeal brought by Ospreys player Lee Byrne against the level of sanction imposed by an independent disciplinary hearing.
"The appeal was against the level of sanction imposed by the original independent disciplinary hearing on January 29, who had found Mr Byrne guilty of a misconduct complaint arising from the Heineken Cup match against Leicester Tigers in that he 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 independent appeal committee, chaired by Rod McKenzie (Scotland) and also comprising Professor Lorne Crerar (Scotland) and Bill Dunlop (Scotland), found that Mr Byrne had demonstrated that the original decision had been in error and the sanction should be varied to a fine of 5,000 euros.
"Mr Byrne is free to play again."
Leicester, whose defeat meant they were knocked out of Europe, lodged an official complaint with ERC after Byrne went back on following his departure due to a bloodied toe.
Sonny Parker had replaced him three minutes earlier, but the Ospreys briefly had an extra player on the field until fly-half Dan Biggar then left the action.
Like Byrne, the Ospreys were hit with a misconduct complaint, receiving a fine of 25,000 euros.
Off the Hook
Gatland will announce the Wales team on Wednesday lunchtime with Byrne's availability freeing up James Hook for a role in midfield.
Hook deputised at full-back during the autumn internationals, which Byrne missed through injury, but he is now set to start alongside Jamie Roberts in the centres as Wales chase a fourth straight Six Nations win over England.
"It has been an extremely difficult time for the player, but we have been determined to give him all the support he needed to achieve this fair resolution of a difficult matter," said Wales Rugby Union group chief executive Roger Lewis.
"We sat down with Lee as soon as the original penalty was announced and started to plan for the appeal.
"There have been a lot of meetings and discussions over the past days, but it has all been worthwhile because we are now celebrating an important victory for all concerned."