ALAIN Carminati has been suspended from rugby for 30 weeks after

having been sent off by Fred Howard eight minutes into the second half

of the Murrayfield international against Scotland on Saturday. The

23-year-old Beziers forward's ban will run into September.

Howard, English rugby's leading referee, had no hesitation in ordering

Carminati off after the flanker had stamped on the left side of John

Jeffrey's head as the Scot lay on the ground, trapped by others. The

attack was brutal and senseless.

Afterwards, Howard recounted how he saw Carminati's knee ''come up

almost to chest height'' before the boot came down on the defenceless

Scot. The referee's revulsion was unrestrained as he scrolled through

his vocabulary for adjectives to describe the incident. Never have I

heard a referee, whatever the level of the game, express such horror at

foul play.

Yet Carminati's ban is two weeks shorter than the penalty imposed on

Kevin Moseley, the Welsh forward whom the same English referee dismissed

during the Cardiff international against France last month. The

difference is inexplicable.

Moseley was suspended until the end of August. Carminati's ban runs up

to September 16, and because of it he will miss not only the remainder

his club's national championship fixtures and his country's

international against Ireland next month but also the French tour to


Immediately after the match Jacques Fouroux, the French coach, was

severe in his criticism of Carminati. So was Albert Ferrasse, president

of the French Rugby Federation (FFR).

At the evening dinner Ferrasse, addressing the referee, said: ''You

did what you had to do. I thank you.'' To deal with Carminati's

dismissal a disciplinary hearing was convened by the Five Nations'

Championship committee at Edinburgh Airport yesterday morning. The venue

was for the convenience of both Carminati, who had an afternoon flight

to Toulouse, and Sir Ewart Bell, the former president of the Irish Rugby

Football Union who flew in from Belfast via London to chair the meeting.

It would have been held on Saturday if a flight had been available for

Sir Ewart.

As is the practice is such matters, the neutral chairman was joined by

a representative from each side in the match. Gordon Masson,

vice-president of the Scottish Rugby Union and one of the country's two

representatives on the international board, and Francis Senegas,

secretary general of the French Rugby Federation, sat in judgment with

Sir Ewart, and Bob Weighill, the championship secretary, was there as


Carminati's reputation has caught up with him. When I first saw him

playing for the French Barbarians against Scotland four years ago I was

not alone in marking him down as one who had a temperament that could

land him in bother.

Nor had Carminati heeded the warning from Moseley's dismissal. It

ought to have been obvious to anyone but a recluse, and Howard even

whistled a reminder by penalising Damian Cronin when the Scottish lock

misused a boot early in the match.

Carminati was the sixteenth player to be sent off in major

international rugby, though only the second at Murrayfield. Colin Meads,

the New Zealand forward, was the first to be dismissed there. That was

in 1967, and he was only the second to go in nearly 100 years of

international rugby.

Such incidences, however, have increased in more recent times. All but

six of the 16 have been in the past 10 years, and Howard, though no

hanging judge, has dealt with three of them. As well as Moseley, the

Englishman dismissed David Codey, the Australian forward, in the Rotorua

match against Wales to decide third place in the world cup three years


Carminati is the third Frenchman to be sent off. Before him

Jean-Pierre Garuet had gone in the 1984 Paris match against Ireland and

then Alain Lorieux during the 1988 Test against Argentina in Velez.

More alarmingly, Saturday's instance was the fourth this season.

Before the Moseley case Brian Stirling, the Irish referee making his

international debut, sent off two Fijians, Tevita Vonolagi and Noa

Nadruku, in their Twickenham match against England.

Such a rise in the rate of dismissals can be interpreted as showing an

increase in foul play in international rugby, but that view has to be

taken in parallel with recognition that referees are more willing to

weed out the thugs.