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O'Brien clear to play rugby

IT WAS a busy day for the Irish Rugby Football Union as it was tested on two separate fronts.

Leinster back-row forward Sean O’Brien was cleared by the IRFU when his citing for an alleged gouging incident in Italy last Saturday was dismissed by a Disciplinary Hearing Committee in Ravenhill last night.

The Tullow man was cited under law 10.4 (l) for allegedly making contact with the eye area of Treviso player Enrico Pavanello in the 62nd minute of the game.

The hearing took place in the Ulster Branch offices. The chairman, Harry McKibbin, assisted by former Irish international referee Stephen Hilditch and Neil Jackson, considered the charge that O’Brien had made negligent contact with the eye of replacement lock Pavanello as the Benetton forward grappled on the ground with Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss.

An IRFU statement read: “The panel noted that Mr O'Brien moved his right hand from the player's collar across his face to grab his scrum cap.

“The panel was satisfied that there had been no deliberate contact with the eye area, no injury whatsoever sustained and no player reaction was observed. The panel concluded that the player was not guilty of the offence charged and he is free to continue playing,” it concluded.

The panel heard from O’Brien and his representatives, along with the Benetton Treviso director of rugby, Vittorio Munari, by telephone link.

It also viewed a detailed recording of the incident. It seemed to be clear from the match replay that O’Brien was acting as peacemaker by pulling Pavanello away from Strauss.

It leaves a relieved O’Brien free to play a part in Leinster’s Magners League match against Edinburgh tomorrow night.

The decision came shortly after the IRFU launched a stinging counterattack against comments made by Dr Farrel Corcoran, the Professor of Communication at the School of Communications in Dublin City University.

Dr Corcoran offered to the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources that the impact on Irish Rugby of freeto- air television may have been overestimated.

This drew a strong rebuke from an IRFU drafted response: “The IRFU reiterates its position, as stated to the joint Committee on Arts, Sport and Tourism on June 2, that a very real threat exists to the security and financing of the game at all levels if there is any change to the ability of the IRFU to negotiate on an unrestricted basis with broadcasters.

“It is erroneous to suggest that the IRFU is overstating the financial threat to the game in Ireland if changes are made to the broadcasting legislation. The figures of between €10 and €12m are based on expert calculations centered on the contracts existing between the IRFU, the Six Nations and ERC.

“These show that between the Six Nations and the Heineken Cup, the IRFU receives €16m per annum from the centrally negotiated TV contracts, while the Irish TV markets for the combined tournament are valued at €5m,” the statement continued.

“It is misleading for commentators to make statements suggesting that these figures are overstated and the IRFU believes that any such statements should be based on fact.”

Des Berry


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