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Rugby must get its house in order

• Since the time of Caesar, the value of sport and the spell of the amphitheatre have been celebrated. Athletes could reach up and touch the hem of the gods through their heroics.

I confess that I became as addicted to the opium of professional sport as the next guy. The arrival of cable TV and near-24/7 availability fed my habit and for a while I was on an all-time high.

With all that coverage and attention come advertising and sponsorship and the professional era has made phenomenal demands on players.

Just like in Nero's day, there is only the quick and the dead.

This week I listened to one of the country's outstanding coaches decry the lack of further investigation into the incident involving Munster captain Paul O'Connell and the unfortunate David Kearney of Leinster.

O'Connell was found to have no case to answer. But Joel Schmidt was upset, having seen one of his players concussed in what looked like a very ugly incident.

A few months earlier, Brian O'Driscoll was cited and banned for what, in my opinion, looked like a far less serious matter.

The Munster captain may be blameless. It is still worth noticing on a broader level that if one does not adhere to the respect demanded for the safety of opponents, and take responsibility for it, then one is risking the whole ethos of sport.

O'Connell is an admiral ambassador for rugby. Neutral observers of the game will wonder how the pursuit of the ball could become paramount over the protection of a prostrate player.

If the rules of rugby do not make this responsibility abundantly clear, they need to be amended.

I would wish to remind all those who don a rugby shirt that one "plays" sport. Should it transverse the bounds of self-control, it stops being a game.

Someone once said that "pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors."

But would it not be a sad day for sport were its code to be informed by the same conventions as mutually assured destruction?

E Toal

Rathgar, Co Dublin

Irish Independent