Worcester Warriors' director of rugby Mike Ruddock has vowed to stand by Shane Drahm, despite the fly half's conviction for unlawful and malicious wounding.
The former Northampton star was fined £3,000 and ordered to do 200 hours of community service this week after admitting his part in an altercation in June that left a man with an eight-inch scar on his face. Having narrowly avoided a custodial sentence when he appeared at Worcester Magistrate's Court on Tuesday, Drahm has been warned about his future conduct by the Sixways outfit.
But after being dropped for last weekend's EDF Energy Cup win at Harlequins, he is free to play and has been named in his favoured position at stand off for this weekend's European Challenge Cup trip to Romania, where Worcester face Bucuresti.
Ruddock has opted to give Drahm another chance after learning that the 30-year-old had intervened to help an off-duty nurse who was being abused by Worcester man Kelvin Purser as she treated his son.
Drahm was then racially abused and kicked in the leg before he delivered what was described as a "swinging-arm rugby league-style tackle". Purser fell to the floor where he sustained a gash that required 15 stitches. It seems that Drahm's good intentions and the extent of the provocation have not only kept him out of prison but also ensured he has been able to continue his Worcester career.
"We understand there was major provocation and racial comments involved," Ruddock said. "However, I have spoken to Shane and to the whole squad to remind them that we set the highest of standards off the field. Walking away from provocation is difficult.
"He has had a verbal warning by the club and we have made it clear we won't look too kindly on incidents of this kind in the future. We are not condoning the fact that Shane has got involved but, based on the evidence we have heard, the provocation and the racial comments, we are standing by him."
Anyone else finding themselves in a similar situation might not be so fortunate. Ruddock added: "I reminded the players about their conduct off the field and of the standards we expect in terms of their professionalism and the fact that they are role models. Contractually, there are major problems for players who find themselves stepping outside the standards we set."
The fact that he has had a court case hanging over him would explain Drahm's poor form so far this season.
When Ruddock replaced John Brain at the end of last season it was thought the shift away from forward-dominated rugby would favour the Australian-born playmaker. But he struggled in his one game in the No 10 shirt and failed to replicate his best form when he reverted to full back, to such an extent that he was left out of the side that registered its first win of the season last Saturday.
Instead, Drahm was picked to play for the Worcester A team on Monday night and, restored to the fly half berth, he produced an excellent display; good enough, in fact, to get him back in the side for this weekend's trip.
With James Brown out with a kidney problem, Drahm will start at No 10 against the eastern Europeans. "All along, he wanted to play as a ten," Ruddock said. "We felt it was in the best interests of the team, early in the season, if he continued at full back.
"He didn't play particularly well against the Ospreys [in the first EDF Cup game] and we have spoken about that. We felt it was right he got some game-time at ten to respond and he responded with a positive performance. He got back on track, got the line going and got the flow into our game."
Dale Rasmussen will be rested for this weekend's game after playing for the last few weeks with a foot injury while Dominic Feaunati's hamstring has still not healed and last week's man of the match, Netani Talei, has picked up a side injury.
Chris Pennell gets his first action since his troubled debut at Bath on the opening day and Pertemps Bees loan players Matt Mullan, Joey Carlisle and Miles Benjamin have been named on the bench.