‘Provoked’ O’Gara clear for Six Nations
MUNSTER will have to plot Racing Metro's downfall without their most potent weapon – Ronan O'Gara – but the Ireland out-half will be available for the Six Nations.
O'Gara has been handed a one-week suspension for what has been described as "a petulant" flick of his famous right boot. The term of the suspension could have been worse, but that is little consolation at this stage as the out-half is unavailable this weekend as a consequence.
His place in the team will be taken by Ian Keatley, with JJ Hanrahan providing back-up from the bench. Hanrahan has been withdrawn from the B&I Cup squad as a result.
O'Gara pleaded guilty to the charge levelled at him by the ERC – that of kicking out at Edinburgh's Sean Cox – but argued provocation as Cox had body-checked him during the passage of play.
Judge Jeff Blackett agreed with O'Gara's summation of the incident and determined that as well as acting out of provocation, O'Gara's actions were clearly out of character for a player with a previously impeccable disciplinary record.
He determined that the act was in the lower end (four weeks) of the IRB's sanctioning regime and reduced the suspension by 50pc.
Judge Blackett then determined that a two-week suspension would be wholly disproportionate to the level of offending and imposed a suspension of one week.
"While I'm very disappointed that my action led to me missing this Heineken Cup game, I have to say I was treated very fairly by Mr Blackett and am very appreciative of his handling of this affair," said O'Gara.
O'Gara was fortunate at the finding and term of suspension imposed for an offence that could have resulted in a much more stringent punishment. Breach of Law 10.4(c) can carry anything from a four to 12-week suspension.
While the suspension rules him out of Munster's game on Sunday, he will be free to take his place in the squad for the opening Six Nations game against Wales on February 2, much to the relief of the Ireland set-up.