Saints’ fans keep fingers crossed

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS supporters are anxiously waiting to find out whether they must start from scratch with their travel plans for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

European Rugby Cup (ERC) officials yesterday remained tight-lipped regarding the possible expulsion of the Ospreys, which could result in a chaotic reshuffle of the line-up for the last eight.

The Welsh region are the subject of a second investigation into their conduct in this season’s competition, this time over the eligibility of Springbok scrum-half Ricky Januarie.

Should they face the ultimate sanction, the seeding system would see Northampton move up to seventh, which would see them face Biarritz in San Sebastian on April 10, instead of Munster in Limerick.

Leicester Tigers, who were initially ousted from a best runners-up slot by the Ospreys, would then come into the shake-up in place of the Swansea-based outfit, and would instead lock horns with Munster at Thomond Park.

However, an ERC spokesperson yesterday said no time frame had been put in place for the investigation into the eligibility of Janaurie.

Saints Supporters Club vice-chairman Barry Forrestal admitted Northampton fans wouldn’t take kindly to a competition reshuffle that could wreck their travel plans.

“To say we’d harbour a sense of grievance would be an understatement,” he said. “Most of those who are planning to go to Limerick have already purchased flights and made accommodation arrangements.

“In addition, the supporters club have coaches and ferries booked, which would also have to be changed; there would be financial implications if that was the case.”

Premier Rugby Limited (PRL), who represent England’s Guinness Premiership clubs, requested the inquiry into the Januarie situation after he joined the Ospreys on a short-term deal when Mike Phillips was injured.

The Ospreys maintain they followed ERC regulations by giving Januarie a three-month contract.

However, the fact the 40-times capped scrum-half joined the Welsh region on November 26 last year, but featured in their 26-13 win over the Lions on February 13, has aroused suspicion among Leicester and PRL.

Januarie helped the Ospreys to a pool stage win on January 23 which helped seal their last eight place. Leicester were furious the Ospreys weren’t kicked out of the Heineken Cup after Lee Byrne briefly appeared as a 16th player during that clash. The Ospreys were fined, while Wales full-back Byrne had a two-week ban quashed on appeal.

Munster have also been subject to similar scrutiny to the Ospreys over the signing of Springbok prop Wian du Preez, but a spokesperson yesterday reaffirmed their belief that they will have no case to answer.


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