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Rugby hero O'Connell warns of growing violence on pitch

IRISH rugby star Paul O'Connell has warned that gardai may have to investigate future assaults during matches.

Speaking ahead of tonight's clash between Munster and Leinster at the Aviva Stadium, O'Connell (32) said he fears that with players becoming stronger, it is only a matter of time before somebody is seriously injured from a punch.

O'Connell gave his views at the University of Limerick where an open discussion on violence and aggression in sport was held.

The 32-year-old, who was on the receiving end of several punches from Clermont's Jamie Cudmore in Thomond Park in 2008, said there is a risk that serious injuries could be inflicted and laws may be broken by violence during matches.

"Now with training and weights, guys are becoming more and more powerful and someday someone's going to do damage with a punch and the law may have to be involved," he warned.

He added that the conditioning and weight training being undertaken by professional rugby players may lead to situations that even while playing within the rules of the game players can be injured more easily.

O'Connell, who has been capped 85 times for his country, said he does not believe there is a problem with violence in sport at the moment.


"Generally in sport a few punches might be thrown over various incidents and it's generally not a problem because guys don't do damage," he said.

Meanwhile more than 45,000 are expected to attend tonight's match which O'Connell will miss as he works his way back from a long-term injury.

Tickets for the clash will be on sale right up until kick-off.

It will also involve a novel attempt at a Guinness world record which will coincide with a massive fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Just before the start of the second-half spectators will be asked to each toss a coin at the same time.

The attempt is in aid of Make-a-Wish and is supported by Bank of Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Leinster Rugby and Coinstar. All money raised will go to help grant the wishes of children living with life-threatening conditions.

Leinster star Jonathan Sexton has been an ambassador for the Make-a-Wish foundation since 2009.