France have slammed the decision to clear England forward Gareth Ellis for Sunday’s final of the autumn international series.
The former Leeds and Wests Tigers second-row, who will join Hull in 2013, was put on report by New Zealand referee Shane Rehm during last Saturday’s 44-6 win over the French following a high tackle that left full-back Cyril Stacul with concussion.
The incident was scrutinised yesterday by a Rugby Football League match-review panel which ruled that Ellis would face no further action.
France coach Aurelien Cologni told a press conference at the City of Salford Stadium, venue for Sunday’s game, that the player ought to have been given at least a one-match ban.
“It was a tough game and I like strong defence but I did not agree with the contact,” Cologni said. “It was not really fair.
“The player was injured and cannot play next weekend so it’s a bad consequence for him and I cannot agree with that. It should have been a minimum one game.”
Cologni said that Stacul, who could not remember the 14th-minute incident, was one of three players returning to France because of injury.
England coach Steve McNamara welcomed the decision to clear Ellis of foul play, insisting there was no intent to harm involved in the tackle.
“First and foremost I hope Cyril is okay,” he said. “Gareth’s available and I never expected him not to be.
“I thought it was an unfortunate challenge. These things sometimes happen in a contact sport.”
Back-row Gregory Mounis, who has a dislocated shoulder, and prop Mickael Simon, who sustained a chest injury, are the other players to leave the camp, while Cologni has called up Carcassonne centre Teddy Sadaiou and Catalan prop Julien Bousquet, who were on stand-by in the south of France and were due to link up with the squad at their Manchester base last night.
Back-row Andrew Bentley was also initially drafted in but will not now be available after picking up a suspension playing for Lezignan at the weekend, leaving Cologni with 19 fit players and a decision on who to play at full-back.
“Thomas Bosc can go there, as he did last weekend, and Clement Soubeyras can play there,” said the coach. “We will have a think about it and put out the best team possible.”
McNamara has no such worries and is set to pick from a full-strength 24-man squad, although he will check on the fitness of Wigan loose forward Sean O’Loughlin, who missed Saturday’s game with a hamstring strain, when they report back to Loughborough University today.
“We’ve another clean bill of health, which is credit to the conditioning and medical staff and a little bit of fortune,” McNamara said. “We had some tough decisions to make last week and we’ll look at it again when we get back into camp.
“It’s a good position to be in. We’ll be going with our strongest team this week, as has been our policy throughout last year and this in terms of trying to keep that continuity and some consistency.
“It doesn’t mean to say we won’t make a change or two if it’s deemed necessary but it seems to be working for us at the minute.”
Sunday’s final will be sponsored by civil engineering company Westshield, an Oldham-based firm who have strong links with the Irish communities in and around Manchester.
They have block-booked the South Stand and will be working with schools, youth groups and sports clubs, including the local Gaelic football scene, to introduce them to international rugby league.