France v Scotland, Six Nations Championship, February 14
Fritz banned for three weeks
February 11, 2009
Florian Fritz has been banned until March 2 © Getty Images
France centre Florian Fritz has been cleared of gouging but convicted of striking and banned for three weeks by a Six Nations disciplinary committee.
Toulouse centre Fritz was cited following France's Six Nations loss to Ireland last weekend and will now miss their next two Six Nations fixtures, against Scotland on Saturday and against Wales on February 27. Benoit Baby takes Fritz's place in the side, while Perpignan centre Maxime Mermoz comes in on the bench.
"The committee, chaired by Roger Morris (Wales) and including Achille Reali (Italy) and Jeff Probyn (England), found that M. Fritz had not deliberately made contact with the eyes or eye area of his Irish opponent in the RBS 6 Nations match at Croke Park on Saturday, 7 February," read a statement from the disciplinary panel. "The committee did, however, find the player guilty of committing the lesser offence of striking an opponent and imposed a suspension of three weeks up to and including Sunday, 1 March, 2009."
France team manager was pleased with the outcome of the hearing, and also relieved that Fritz was not the latest in a lengthening line of players hit by bans for the game's most cowardly act.
"The gouging was not recognised," he told L'Equipe. "I am thrilled and delighted we can hold our heads high because it is not this horrible act that has been punished. We regret this gesture but French rugby is not dirty."
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