MUNSTER MUST PLAN with out veteran out half Ronan O’Gara for their final Heineken Cup pool game this weekend.
But the Ireland out half will consider himself fortunate to get away with just a one-week suspension this evening.
O’Gara was cited following an off-the-ball clash with Edinburgh’s Sean Cox at Murrayfield on Sunday. TV cameras picked up the incident in the 65th minute as the out-half kicked out at Cox from behind, sparking a scuffle between players from both sides.
O’Gara appeared at a disciplinary hearing in Dublin this afternoon, where his case was heard by HHJ Jeff Blackett, the independent judicial officer.
The Corkman could have been hit with an eight-week suspension but rugby chiefs have instead opted for a seven-day ban, meaning his 6 Nations campaign with Ireland will be unaffected.
“The Judicial Officer upheld the complaint and found that O’Gara had committed a petulant act which was out of character,” an ERC statement reads.
“He determined that the act was in the lower end (4 weeks) of the IRB’s sanctioning regime and taking into account the player’s guilty plea and his good disciplinary record, the Judicial Officer reduced the suspension by 50%. Judge Blackett then determined that a two-week suspension would be wholly disproportionate to the level of offending as O’Gara had been body-checked by Sean Cox prior to the incident. He also accepted that O’Gara had intended to trip rather than to kick Cox.
“As there were no aggravating factors, he imposed a suspension of one week.”
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Munster chief Rob Penney will now be without his preferred number 10 for Sunday’s qualification decider against Racing Metro in Thomond Park.
Failure to secure a winning bonus point on Sunday leaves Munster on 15 points ahead of their final pool match, marginally better than Leinster by virtue of having scored one more try as the two Irish provinces battle for the final place in the knockout rounds.