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White waits on citing verdict

The Leicester Tigers prop Julian White could miss out on the RBS 6 Nations Championship if he is found guilty of eye-gouging.

England's preparations for the RBS 6 Nations Championship could face further disruption following eye-gouging allegations surrounding the World Cup winner Julian White. The manager Martin Johnson and his elite squad ? including White ? flew to Portugal today for warm-weather training ahead of next week's tournament opener against Italy at Twickenham. And Johnson will be sweating on the deliberations of the citing commissioner, the Irishman Denis Templeton, who has until tomorrow night to decide whether White's alleged behaviour warrants a disciplinary hearing. Leicester's 15-9 Heineken Cup defeat against the Ospreys did not deny them a quarter-final place, as a losing bonus point secured through three Derick Hougaard penalties proved sufficient to top their group. White though, left the Liberty Stadium under a cloud, just four days after being summoned for England duty. The prop, 35, was called up as replacement for the Bath front-row Matt Stevens, who is currently suspended from all rugby following a positive drugs test that could see him receive a two-year suspension. White is on the verge of relaunching his Test career after missing England's 2007 World Cup campaign to spend more time on his farming business. But it could all now reach an abrupt halt after the Ospreys coaches Sean Holley and Jonathan Humphreys highlighted White's alleged misdemeanours. Punishments for eye-gouging range from anything between 12 and 24 weeks, with three years the maximum penalty. White has a history of disciplinary trouble, which includes bans for punching, butting and fighting. "We had a couple of players in the changing rooms with marks around their eyes," the former Wales captain Humphreys said. "There were a couple of incidents in the game at Welford Road involving Julian White (Ospreys lost to Leicester in October), but we didn't go down the citing line. "It is particularly disappointing it happens again, and disappointing it happens with the same guy. "In Europe, these incidents are a little too prevalent for our liking. "It seems to be becoming part of the game, and a few boys are particularly upset with Julian." Although Templeton would make any final citing decision, the Ospreys have until tonight to make their observations known to him. "We all have a duty to eradicate this from the game, and our team manager has spoken to the citing officer," the head coach Holley added. "It is up to the citing officer, if he's not happy, to look at it. There is some footage. "It is disappointing the touch judges were giving forward passes, but missing serious foul play. "Do we just roll over? There were numerous scuffles, for obvious reasons." Holley said that the Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard was one of the players left "particularly distressed" by alleged events on the field during a torrid encounter. Speaking before the Ospreys hit out, the Leicester forwards coach Richard Cockerill, who is in acting charge of the Tigers with Heyneke Meyer on compassionate leave in South Africa, said that he had "no knowledge" of any incidents involving White. With Stevens sidelined, Johnson can ill-afford to lose a player of White's experience for a Six Nations campaign that sees England facing successive away games against Wales and Ireland following the Italy clash. Johnson has already seen the Leicester flanker Lewis Moody (ankle) and the Wasps lock Tom Palmer (shoulder) sidelined from the whole tournament, while the flanker Tom Rees is another injury victim who will miss at least the first three Tests. If White is cited and banned, Johnson's prop resources will be stretched. It might all mean a senior squad call-up for the Newcastle front-row prospect David Wilson to understudy England's current tighthead Phil Vickery. *PA Sport

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