O'Connell gets four-week ban
Ireland lock Paul O'Connell will be available for the start of the RBS 6 Nations after receiving only a four-week suspension for striking.
O'Connell was shown a red card for felling Jonathan Thomas with a swinging arm during Munster's 22-16 victory over Ospreys at Thomond Park on Sunday.
An independent hearing in Dublin today issued a five-week ban reduced by one week on account of the Lions captain's good disciplinary record and he is free to play from January 10.
O'Connell, a second-half substitute, was just 11 minutes into his Heineken Cup comeback after eight months out with a groin injury when he was sent off.
The 31-year-old responded to a tug on his shirt by Thomas during an off the ball incident by striking the Wales back row in the face.
O'Connell had his back turned to Thomas at the time and referee Christophe Berdos reached for the red card.
The Munster lock, who was accompanied at the hearing by his solicitor and team manager Shaun Payne, contested the dismissal.
The red card was upheld and, while it was determined that the act had been deliberate, it was decided there had been no intention to injure Thomas.
The offence was deemed to be in the mid range of the level of seriousness, resulting in the five-week suspension which was then reduced.
The top end for striking carries a minimum eight-week ban, which had the potential to threaten O'Connell's participation in the Six Nations opener against Italy on February 5.
But he is free to make his first appearance for Ireland since last year's Six Nations.
He will miss Munster's Heineken Cup clash with the Ospreys on Saturday and Magners League games against Connacht, Ulster and Glasgow.
However, he will be available for the final two matches of the Heineken Cup group stage against Toulon and London Irish.