Michael Rhodes has admitted he was shocked to learn that he had been cited following his man of the match performance for Saracens in their Champions Cup quarter-final win away at Leinster last Saturday.
The energy provided by the 32-year-old South African around the Aviva Stadium pitch was one of the prime reasons why the defending champions repeated their May 2019 final success against the Irish province.
When it came to potential foul play, Rhodes was involved in the second-half incident where he tackled Johnny Sexton after the Leinster player had released the ball. That resulted in a penalty against Saracens and no more.
However, it emerged on Monday that the back row was being cited for a very different incident, a second-minute breakdown meeting with Robbie Henshaw in which he was accused of striking with his head.
It was Tuesday evening when his disciplinary hearing concluded that although he had committed foul play, the incident didn’t warrant a red card which freed Rhodes to play for Saracens against Racing in this Saturday’s semi-final in Paris.
Was that your Try of the Round from the quarters?
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) September 21, 2020
Speaking on The Rugby Pod before the verdict emerged, Rhodes said: “It [the citing] came as a bit of a shock to me… there is a clash of heads at a breakdown. You know I can’t really say anything when it comes to that side of things until I am retiring and sitting on the couch and then I can say what I like. We’ll see what happens. Of course, from our point of view, I don’t think there was anything in it. We’ll see how it pans out and hopefully I can still play in the semi-final.”
There was talk some years ago that the South African’s form with Saracens could see him called up by England. Nothing came of that speculation but he would still love to play Test rugby at some stage even though he is committed to sticking with Saracens for their 2020/21 season in the Championship.
“There hasn’t been any more chat from anyone with England. Of course, I was disappointed when I didn’t get a chance to play. Like anyone, I was looking forward to testing myself in the international arena. Unfortunately for me, it’s pretty quiet on that front but if the opportunity ever came up I would jump at the chance to play international rugby. We’ll see. Maybe I need a couple of more man of the matches to get there.
“I’m still here (with Saracens) for next season so we’ll be going to all sorts of weird and wonderful places I have never been before and looking forward to it. It will be something different, a chance for the younger players to come in and get experience.
“Old boys like myself can get 20 minutes on the bench and then go for pints in the changing room. It will be a good chance for the team to build for hopefully going back into the Premiership for the following season.”
You can say what you like about Saracens' achievements in the Premiership, but their European legacy will live on, undiminished.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 20, 2020
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