Byrne cleared of ban and free to fire the Dragons

WALES full-back Lee Byrne was last night cleared to take on England at Twickenham on Saturday after having his two-match ban overturned by European Rugby Cup chiefs.

The 29-year-old was initially ruled out of the Six Nations opener following his brief appearance as an illegal 16th man in the Ospreys’ Heineken Cup victory over Leicester.

Both he and his club pleaded guilty to charges of misconduct on Friday with the Ospreys fined €25,000 (£21,666).

But after a four-hour appeal hearing in Glasgow, Byrne’s sanction was lifted and replaced by a fine of €5,000.

With the appeal in mind, Wales coach Warren Gatland delayed naming his side for Saturday, although Byrne, inset, is now expected to start at No15 when the team is finally announced at around 1pm today.

An ERC statement said: “An independent appeal committee allowed the appeal brought by Ospreys player Lee Byrne against the level of sanction imposed by an independent disciplinary hearing.

“The independent appeal committee found that Mr Byrne had demonstrated that the original decision had been in error and the sanction should be varied to a fine of €5,000 euros. Mr Byrne is free to play again.”

Meanwhile, Byrne’s team-mate Jamie Roberts says it is time to “step up and deliver” in this year’s Six Nations.
Centre Roberts is seen as one of the hottest properties in the northern hemisphere but came under criticism for a below-par autumn series.

He said: “I know it’s time for me to step up and deliver now. It is the international shop window and I am at the stage now where I have to kick on and show some leadership skills.”