Match fights 'could land rugby players in court'
RUGBY star Paul O'Connell has warned that gardai may have to investigate future assaults during matches should any violence result in serious injury.
While Mr O'Connell (32) does not believe there is a big problem with violence, he fears that with players becoming stronger it is only a matter of time before somebody is seriously injured by a punch.
The Munster player expressed his views at the University of Limerick where an open discussion on violence and aggression in sport was held. He was joined by Law Professor Jack Anderson from Queen's University Belfast.
Mr O'Connell, who was on the receiving end of several punches from Clermont's Jamie Cudmore in a match at Thomond Park in 2008, said there is a risk that serious injuries could be inflicted and laws broken by violence during matches.
"Guys are becoming more and more powerful and some day someone's going to do damage with a punch and the law may have to be involved," he warned.
Mr O'Connell, who has 85 caps, said he does not believe there is a problem with violence in sport.
"Punches might be thrown and it's generally not a problem because guys don't do damage," he said.
Mr O'Connell will be missing through injury from the Munster second row when they face Leinster in tonight's Rabo Pro 12 league clash at Lansdowne Road.
The University of Limerick event examined the role and impact of violence and aggression in sport from the perspective of a player and the role the law might play in its understanding and management.
Prof Anderson warned that professional players cannot operate outside the law, even on the pitch.
"Acting in a violent manner which is clearly outside the rules and spirit of the game may make them liable to criminal liability," he said.
"An assault is an assault whether it occurs on the street, in the home or on the sports field.
"When a player oversteps the mark, the tendency has been for the players to sort it out on the field with the mantra 'What happens on the field stays on the field'. But No area of society, not even sport, can operate outside the law."
see sport, Pages 74-79