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Rugby World Cup: Sean O'Brien ban adds to coach Joe Schmidt's injury woes

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt last night paid tribute to his injured captain Paul O'Connell but his focus this morning will be on planning without Sean O'Brien for Sunday's World Cup quarter-final against Argentina after he received a one-match ban last night.

Charged with striking Pascal Pape with his "hand, arm or fist" during the opening stages of last weekend's win over France, the flanker admitted his guilt during a lengthy hearing in London which he attended alongside Ireland manager Mick Kearney.

The citing was upheld by Australian judicial officer Terry Wilson. Although the minimum punishment is two weeks, he took into account O'Brien's "conduct prior to and at the hearing, his remorse, good character and clean disciplinary record" and reduced the suspension, according to World Rugby.

The IRFU would not comment on whether they will appeal the judgement. When they receive the written judge­ment in full, they will have 48 hours in which to lodge any appeal.

If the ban stands, it means the flanker would be available for the semi-final if Ireland overcome the Pumas. Argentina, too, will be hit by suspension after Marcelo Bosch was banned for a week following a dangerous tackle against Namibia.

Speaking on the loss of O'Connell, Schmidt said: "He's obviously a leader by nature. He's the skipper, so not having his voice and incredible example around; the way he plays is the way he prepares, the way he trains and commits to preparation. That's going to leave a big hole."

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