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'You could write a book about Julian White's disciplinary hearings'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Former Leicester CEO Simon Cohen has reminisced about some of the scrapes that ex-Tigers, England and Lions tighthead Julian White got into over the years with disciplinary committees. The now 49-year-old was capped on 51 occasions by his country, becoming a 2003 World Cup winner in the process, while he also played four Tests for the Lions.

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Having started out at Saracens and Bristol, it was at Leicester from 2003 through to 2012 where White cemented his reputation as a front-rower who enjoyed indulging in the dark arts and Cohen, who began working at the club in 2005, has now recounted two of the dramas involving the forward.

Firstly, he remembered the episode of White repeatedly punching Leinster’s Malcolm O’Kelly [click here to see the incident], behaviour that was yellow carded, cited and resulted in a five-week suspension that saw him miss three Premiership matches in 2008. He then recalled the red-carded 2009 punch thrown at Andrew Sheridan of Sale that merited a two-week ban [click here to see this incident].

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Cohen made his journey down memory lane during an interview on The Big Jim Show, the series hosted by ex-Scotland lock Jim Hamilton, and it was after the rugby administrator mentioned that he was a lawyer prior to joining Leicester that the colourful antics of White were brought into the conversation.

“I did a lot of the disciplinary hearings… Julian White, you could write a book about Julian’s disciplinary hearings and the stories that came out of it, just fantastic stories. He punched Malcolm O’Kelly when we played Leinster at Welford Road. He punched him twice.

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“I head referee Joel Jutge going, ‘Stop it, stop it now’. Julian punched him twice more after that. I went into the dressing room afterwards because I knew he was going to get cited, there was going to be a disciplinary hearing. I was right, ‘Julian, we need to get our story sorted for the hearing, it will be in Dublin, it will be Tuesday night, so there must have been some provocation, what did he do to make you punch him four times?’ Julian went, ‘Well, I actually don’t think he did anything’.”

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Switching to the White incident with fellow England prop Sheridan the following year, Cohen – who was ousted as Leicester CEO in 2020 and spent two years on gardening leave before a settlement was reached – said: “He punched Andrew Sheridan and got sent off against Sale and it was a one-punch so it was a one-game ban.

“It was pretty standard save for the fact that at the time in the regulations if you were a persistent offender they could ban you for a much longer period. The chairman of the panel was Jeff Blackett, who is one of the country’s senior judges.

“I went in and said, ‘My job today, Mr Chairman, is to persuade you that Julian White is not a persistent offender’. He said, ‘I’ll have to stop you there, Mr Cohen’. He phoned down to his secretary or his PA and said, ‘Can you bring up another pot of tea? It’s going to be a long afternoon’.

“These things are just fantastic stories and made the club what it was, just great people and great characters and I worry that the game is losing some of that character. You still have got people like Coley [Dan Cole], who has got a brilliant sense of humour, Gengey [Ellis Genge] is pretty interesting, Gengey is a character, but they are less so because it has become more of a job I think.”

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