Tuesday 23 January 2018

My faith in the system has been damaged – Cullen

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

LEO CULLEN believes that the decision not to cite Paul O'Connell for his kick on Dave Kearney will have widespread implications for rugby.

The Leinster captain, who has partnered the Munster skipper in the second-row 10 times for Ireland, reckons that players could lose faith in the disciplinary process after citing commissioner Eddie Walsh opted not to refer the incident to a disciplinary panel on Monday.

Cullen did not see the incident at the time but said the seriousness of it soon became apparent.

"I got a message from the sideline that there had been a boot to the player's head, so I said that to the referee at the time and he said he hadn't seen it, but if he had he would have done something about it and it would be left up to the citing officer to do something about it," he said.

"Looking back at it since, yeah, (I'm) pretty disappointed about the way it has panned out. Clearly the player has been knocked unconscious by another player while he was on the ground, and obviously my first instinct is to be protective of one of my own players.

"Players have to have faith in the system and I suppose the faith I would have has changed now. Clearly there is an issue there and it is disappointing.

"A player has been hospitalised, a player has been kicked unconscious.

"That's my biggest fear and I've a fear of how that affects parents – if that was your son out there and he was knocked unconscious by a boot, you would have some serious issues about whether you wanted him to play the game again."

While Cullen (above) does not believe that O'Connell intended to harm Kearney, he believes that he had a case to answer for.

"The incident clearly needed to be looked at at another level and it has not been for what ever reason. I just do not understand it at all," he said.

"I don't see how the player was going to get to the ball without touching the player's head and obviously that's a bit of a concern.

"I think it sends out a pretty bad image for our game. I'm disappointed about the way it's been handled. I'm not sure there was intent but it was obviously clearly reckless."

Meanwhile, Jonny Sexton is expected to start Saturday's meeting with Zebre as he returns from injury, while Gordon D'Arcy could feature despite suffering a calf strain against Munster.

Fergus McFadden should return, but Jordi Murphy and Heinke van der Merwe remain out and Eoin O'Malley is a doubt.

Irish Independent

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