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Penney insists O’Connell has ‘nothing to answer for’ over Kearney kick

MUNSTER coach Rob Penney leapt to the defence of Paul O'Connell after the decision not to cite the forward for his kick on Dave Kearney left Heineken Cup rivals Clermont Auvergne scratching their heads.

The New Zealander said that there was "nothing really to be concerned about" and that O'Connell had no case to answer after reviewing the incident which resulted in Leinster winger Kearney spending Saturday night in hospital.

Kearney -- younger brother of Ireland and Lions star Rob -- is a major doubt for Leinster's Challenge Cup semi-final against Biarritz next weekend and will certainly miss this week's meeting with Zebre.

After reviewing video footage, citing commissioner Eddie Walsh deemed that the kick was not an act of foul play and was careless rather than reckless. The incident went viral yesterday, with YouTube clips attracting more than 60,000 views, causing Clermont second-row Jamie Cudmore, an old foe of O'Connell, to tweet: "how long for a kick in the head these days?"

But Penney backed his captain, whose absence would have done untold harm to Munster's bid to reach next month's European final in Dublin had he been cited and received a ban.

"It was one of those incidents," the coach said. "Footy is a dynamic game and, from our perspective, (he has) absolutely nothing to answer for.

"You slow things down and you look in real detail and they always look worse -- numerous incidents, if you take them in isolation. This is one of those ones where there is nothing really to be concerned about."

O'Connell's second-row partner Donncha O'Callaghan faces an anxious wait to see if he will be fit for the Clermont clash after he injured his knee against Leinster, while Keith Earls and Doug Howlett remain doubts for the semi-final after the province confirmed they were unlikely to return to action this week against the Dragons.

Online Editors