SO England captain Martin Johnson has appealed against his 35-day ban for a litany of offences he committed in Leicester's Tetley Bitter Cup tie against Saracens last month.

The hearing was due to take place today and, if successful, is likely to lead to a reduced suspension and give the mighty lock-forward time for some useful match practice before England's Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff.

As things stand, Johnson will already be eligible to lead out the defending champions at the National Stadium as his original punishment expires the day before the February 3 clash.

But it appears that an enforced 35-day absence is still too harsh for a player that punched one opponent, kneed another and then stamped on the same player for good measure. (Imagine the furore if Tony Adams, Alan Shearer or David Beckham had done that).

Johnson has already had seven days lopped off the recommended ban for stamping to reflect the nature of the game in which the incidents occurred.

Apparently it was such a rough-house that such things could only be expected and, of course, the full suspension would have definitely kept Johnson, who has been permitted to train with the national squad, out of the Wales match.

A happy coincidence maybe but the whole messy issue would have been avoided if rugby followed football's example.

Any of the aforementioned incidents, if spotted, would have bought an instant red card and an automatic three-match ban for violent conduct.

There's no way that all three fouls would have gone undetected by the referee and his assistants and any that had slipped through the net would have been dealt with promptly by the video panel that now sits on the FA's say-so to hand out retrospective punishments on a par with the card that should have been shown at the time.

In rugby it takes the opposing team to cite a player for foul play before any action is considered -- and all because the referees never seem to do anything.

I'm no rugby fan and followers of the oval ball game will claim comparisons with football are ridiculous.

But how kicking, punching and stamping can become almost accepted practice in any sport, no matter how physical, is beyond me. Put Jeff Winter in charge of a game, that would sort them out.