Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 22 News List

RBS NATIONS: Bergamasco ruled out of rugby for 13 weeks after hearing

AFP , LONDON

Italy flanker Mauro Bergamasco was banned for 13 weeks after a disciplinary panel in London on Wednesday found him guilty of gouging the eye of Wales fullback Lee Byrne during the Azzurri's 47-8 Six Nations defeat in Cardiff last weekend.

The ban, which applies across all levels means Bergamasco, who plays his club rugby for French champions Stade Francais, could now miss the rest of the season as he won't be able to resume playing until June.

But Italy lock Carlo del Fava was cleared later on Wednesday after being cited during the same match.

Bergamasco has the right of appeal against a ban which rules him out of Italy's Six Nations matches away to France on March 9 and at home to Scotland on March 15.

"Following a citing by the independent citing commissioner, Mauro Bergamasco, the Italy loose forward, has been suspended from playing for 13 weeks, from March 3, 2008, having been found to have deliberately placed his finger in the right eye of Lee Byrne, the Wales fullback, in the Six Nations match on Saturday," a statement issued on Wednesday said.

This season's French Championship semi-finals have been delayed until June 21 because of the World Cup, with the final a week later.

But whether Stade, should they qualify, will want to field a player who has been out for three months, if Bergamasco's ban remains at its present length, is uncertain.

Stade's flamboyant owner Max Guazzini was distraught about the ban and said the club was suffering for something that they had nothing to do with.

"It is very bad news," Guazzini said. "Bergamasco was playing for Italy. But it is the club who continues to pay during the suspension for an offense he did not commit while he was playing for them."

"Quite apart from the responsibility of the player, of which I will not pass comment, it is Stade Francais who have been penalized. It is a form of double penalty," Guazzini said.

The 28-year-old Bergamasco and Del Fava were both left out of the Italy squad announced by coach Nick Mallett on Tuesday for the match against France.

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