Scott Quinnell's Wales can prepare to face England at Twickenham on 23 March, knowing that influential captain Martin Johnson will not be on the park...
The man who led the British Lions on Tour to Australia in the summer will be forced to watch his country from the sidelines after his appeal against a three week ban by the Rugby Football Union was today dismissed.
The Leicester Tigers second row had an initial three-week ban, imposed for punching Saracens hooker Robbie Russell in a Zurich Premiership match, suspended when his club appealed against the decison, allowing him to lead England against France in Paris last weekend.
But after a six hour appeal hearing at Twickenham today it was decided to dismiss his appeal and his three week sanction will begin from today.
He will not only miss England's game against Wales on March 23, but also Leicester's Zurich Premiership appointments with Bath and Gloucester.
Today's six-hour hearing was conducted in front of independent arbitrator David Pannick QC.
Johnson was not appealing against either the fact he punched Russell, or the sentence. His, and Leicester's, argument was that the RFU did not have the power to effectively punish him twice for the same offence.
Referee Dave Pearson sent the England skipper to the sin bin on the intervention of a touch-judge, but this was deemed by the RFU to be insufficient penalty.
The player will not now be available until the Tigers' visit to London Wasps on Easter Sunday, before taking up his role as England skipper in the final match of the Six Nations campaign against Italy in Rome.
England coach Clive Woodward reacted philosophically to the verdict.
"I accept the decision made by the QC today," said Woodward.
"If available, Neil Back will captain England against Wales."
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