Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Ireland's black Monday as Brian O’Driscoll ban looms and injuries rock squad

Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll is sin binned in their RBS 6 Nations match against Italy

Bad news continued to rain on Ireland's Six Nations team on rugby's 'Black Monday'.

The fall-out from Ireland's fifth placing in the championship, their worst finish since 1999, was unrelenting yesterday.

Keith Earls' season is almost certainly over as he is facing the probability of an eight-week lay-off after damaging the AC joint in his shoulder.

He will see a specialist during the week to determine the best course for a rehab programme.

Luke Fitzgerald's campaign is definitely over as he will have to undergo surgery after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament. He will undergo surgery once the swelling subsides and is facing six months of rehabilitation.

And as Ireland's world ranking plummeted to a worst-ever ninth, Brian O'Driscoll's testimonial in London last night was overshadowed by news he has been cited for stamping on Italy's Simone Favaro.

The spate of negative bulletins just kept on coming as Iain Henderson faced the possibility of missing Ulster's Heineken Cup quarter-final with Saracens on April 6. The second-row sustained a foot tendon injury against Italy and will be assessed today.

It has been a harrowing campaign for Ireland and Declan Kidney, whose future is likely to be determined at a meeting with the National Team Review Group tomorrow.

A date for O'Driscoll's hearing will not be finalised until a disciplinary committee has been appointed, but it is expected to be held before the week is out and more than likely tomorrow.

Although any ban is highly unlikely to affect his availability for the Lions tour of Australia, the offence of stamping carries recommended bans of two weeks if considered low-range, five weeks for mid-range and nine or more weeks if considered a top-end offence, involving the head.

Should O'Driscoll be found guilty, any ban would be halved because of his unblemished previous disciplinary record and, if contrite and co-operative, there could be a further reduction over and above that.

The citing alone will come as a blow to the Leinster centre, let alone any ban that could result.

In 14 years of Test rugby and in the previous 130 Tests, one of the most ferociously physical players in the game's history had found himself yellow-carded – but not cited – just once before, following a flare-up with France's Benoit Baby at Lansdowne Road in 2005.

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