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Rugby World Cup: Sean O'Brien is cited after alleged assault on Pascal Pape during France and Ireland game

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 13/10/2015

Blocked: Sean O’Brien is stopped by Remi Tales and Pascal Pape
Blocked: Sean O’Brien is stopped by Remi Tales and Pascal Pape

Sean O'Brien has been cited for allegedly striking Pascal Pape in Sunday's 24-9 victory over France and the Leinsterman could now miss Ireland's World Cup quarter-final against Argentina on Sunday.

He is accused of being in breach of World Rugby law 10.4 (a) that says a player "must not strike an opponent with the fist or arm, including the elbow, shoulder, head or knee" and will face a hearing in London at 1pm this afternoon to be heard by Terry Willis of Australia.

The incident occurred after less than a minute of play and, after referee Nigel Owens took no action at the time, O'Brien went on to take home man-of-the-match honours in the big win.

His performance, both at the breakdown and with ball in hand, was critical to the victory and should the 2011 European Player of the Year be banned for the last eight clash it will only add to the considerable selection headaches currently being endured by Joe Schmidt.

With Peter O'Mahony ruled out of the rest of the tournament after picking up a knee injury on Sunday, the head coach would then be without two thirds of his preferred back-row.

While Ulster's Chris Henry has proved to be a more than capable deputy for O'Brien in the past - the Malone man has been on form during the World Cup and starred throughout the victorious 2014 Six Nations campaign - who would fill the other loose forward spot would prove more problematic.

Schmidt could opt to field Iain Henderson at blindside flanker, a position he has previously said he prefers playing to lock.

The other options include bringing Jordi Murphy or Rhys Ruddock, summoned to the squad only yesterday, into the starting line-up and keeping Henderson in an engine room already bereft of Paul O'Connell.

Suspensions for striking an opponent carry a low-end entry point of two weeks but mid-range and top-end levels start at five weeks and 12 weeks respectively.

If the citing is upheld then Ireland management will hope O'Brien receives just the two-week ban with one week then likely to be taken off in light of his past disciplinary record.

French coach Philippe Saint-Andre slammed the match officials for missing the incident during the game.

"It was an assault 23 seconds into the game," he said during his media duties yesterday.

"Why was it not acted on during the game?

"The players have an idea, so do I and I imagine you the media also have an idea.

"I hope that next time the TMO will really do his job. Since the beginning of the World Cup, there has been a review of the images for all sorts of matters, not just tries, but in this case they did no such thing."

Argentina were dealt their own disciplinary blow yesterday with centre Marcelo Bosch also receiving a call from the citing commissioner.

The Saracens centre will face a hearing today to determine whether he breached law 10.4e, a rule that relates to dangerous tackles, during his country's nine-try win over Namibia on Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph

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