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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 20 January 2021

Paul O'Connell banned for four weeks

Munster lock handed ban after strike on Ospreys player.

Munster's Paul O'Connell arrives for this morning's hearing with Munster Rugby PRO Pat Geraghty and team manager Shaun Payne
Munster's Paul O'Connell arrives for this morning's hearing with Munster Rugby PRO Pat Geraghty and team manager Shaun Payne

Updated 2.18pm

MUNSTER LOCK PAUL O’Connell has been handed a month-long ban by an independent hearing committee at ERC headquarters in Dublin this afternoon.

Munster Rugby tweeted the decision moments ago:

Four week suspension for Paul O’Connell

O’Connell was sent off for striking the Ospreys number eight Jonathan Thomas in contravention of Law 10.4.

The incident occured just 10 minutes into O’Connell’s much-anticipated Heineken Cup comeback – after a prolonged injury lay-off.

The recommended suspensions under IRB regulations covering that rule range from two weeks (lower end) to five weeks (mid-range) and eight weeks plus (top end) up to a maximum of 52 weeks.

The case was heard in the capital by the independent Judicial Officer appointed for the hearing Jeff Blackett (England), with the ERC represented by Roger O’Connor, their disciplinary officer.

O’Connell attended the hearing with Munster manager Shaun Payne, solicitor Donal Spring and the Thomond Park media officer Pat Geraghty.

Afterwards Payne expressed his disappointment with the outcome but said that Munster would wait on receiving the written judgment before deciding on an appeal, according to the province.

Both the ERC and O’Connell will have 72 hours to lodge an appeal against the panel’s decision.

Should the ban stand, the Lions captain will have a job on to regain match fitness ahead of the Six Nations, which starts on February 5 against Italy in Rome.

The ERC confirmed the ban in a statement this afternoon. It read:

After hearing submissions from both parties and considering the evidence, the independent Judicial Officer, HHJ Jeff Blackett (England) upheld the red card and determined that the act had been deliberate but that there had been no intention to injure Mr Thomas.

The independent Judicial Officer found that the offence was in the mid range (entry point: 5 weeks) of the level of seriousness for an offence of this type.

Having taken into account any mitigating factors, such as Mr O’Connell’s good disciplinary record, the independent Judicial Officer reduced the suspension from the entry point by one (1) week which resulted in the final suspension of four (4) weeks. Mr O’Connell will be free to play from 10 January, 2011.

Munster have a busy schedule with a Heineken Cup game against Ospreys in Wales this weekend followed by ties with Magners League Ulster, Connacht and Glasgow.

The Reds then face Toulon in the European Cup on January 15.

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