Michele Rizzo ban gives Richard Cockerill front-row headache

Michele Rizzo is sent off against the Scarlets. Image: David Gibson / Fotosport. www.fotosportuk.photoshelter.com

ON-LOAN loosehead prop Michele Rizzo could have played his last game for Edinburgh after being suspended for four weeks as punishment for his sending-off against the Scarlets.

The experienced Italian international was signed as emergency cover for a six-week spell at the end of August, and as things stand he is due to return to Leicester well before his ban runs out. Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill has previously said that he would like to extend Rizzo’s short-term deal, but his priority now is to find looseheads fit and able to play in the coming weeks.

Allan Dell is due back in action soon, but Cockerill expects to lose him to international duty when the Autumn Internationals come around. Alasdair Dickinson is further away from returning following injury, while Rory Sutherland is also sidelined at present. That leaves Darryl Marfo as the only recognised senior loosehead in the squad, and although younger, inexperienced players will be available for Friday’s game at Leinster and subsequent fixtures, Cockerill will want to find reinforcements quickly. Former Scotland and Lions prop Ryan Grant was one possibility a few weeks ago, but the coach decided against making him an offer, and he has subsequently been back training with his former club.

Rizzo was banned on Wednesday by a Disciplinary Panel which ruled that he was guilty of “reckless rather than intentional behaviour” when he was red-carded by referee John Lacey in Edinburgh’s defeat in Wales last week. Lacey ruled that he had breached Law 10.4 (h): “A player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without use of the arms, or without grasping a player.”

The panel at first ruled that the offence warranted a mid-range sanction of six weeks, but then decided that the ban should be cut to four weeks because of “off-field mitigating circumstances”. Rizzo has the right to appeal, but, unless he does so successfully, will not be free to play again until Monday 23 October.

The panel also ruled that Munster lock should serve a three-week ban for his sending-off in the closing minutes of his team’s loss to Glasgow last week. The teenager contravened Law 10.4 (a): “Punching or Striking: A player must not strike an opponent with the hand, arm or fist, including the elbow, shoulder, head or knee(s).” His action was also deemed reckless rather than intentional, so the sanction also began at six weeks, although his previously clean record led the panel to cut the ban in half.


About Stuart Bathgate 1408 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.