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Lapasset anger at Bayonne disgrace

By Gavin Mairs

The French Rugby Federation are to open an inquiry following the incidents in Ireland's World Cup warm-up match in Bayonne which saw Brian O'Driscoll sustain a fracture to his sinus.

Ireland captain O'Driscoll was taken to hospital with what first appeared to be a fractured cheekbone, after he was punched midway through the second half by Bayonne's New Zealand-born replacement Mike Tewhata in a scuffle involving seven players.

The 28-year-old is set to miss his country's first game of the World Cup as a result, while elsewhere in the fractious friendly, five players were sin-binned as the game threatened to boil over.

An appalled Bernard Lapasset, the FFR president, has vowed to open an investigation into the incidents.

"I haven't the words to describe what I feel," he said.

"This should have been a festival of rugby in a full stadium. Happily we sent an official delegate, a foreign referee.

"I want to know what happened.

"I will open an inquiry."

Bayonne, a side who play in the Top 14 in France, have come in for some criticism for their heavy-handed approach to Thursday night's friendly.

Before the match their captain Richard Dourthe, the former France centre, had said that "if Ireland had to play without Brian O'Driscoll, it is better for us."

Dourthe however felt Ireland were as much to blame for the incidents that took place.

"There was a bit of muscle, but it was muscle on both sides," he said.

"We responded individually, they did it collectively."

A statement from the Irish Rugby Football Union issued yesterday, read: "Following an X-ray and scan of Brian O'Driscoll's injury, it has been confirmed that he has sustained a fracture to his sinus and a deep laceration under his right eye.

"This is not as serious as initially feared and the injury will not require any surgery.

"The recovery period for the injury is three to four weeks, which will rule O'Driscoll out of the warm-up game against Italy next Friday (August 24) and Ireland's first Rugby World Cup pool game against Namibia (September 9)."

Losing O'Driscoll for the World Cup would have been a major blow for Ireland.

The Leinster back is rated as one of the best centres in the world as well as his country's most influential player.

It would also have meant more bad luck for O'Driscoll following his unhappy tour with the British and Irish Lions two years ago.

O'Driscoll was made captain for the Test series against New Zealand but had a shoulder dislocated in the opening 90 seconds of the first Test.

Further good news for Ireland is that the shoulder injury sustained by No 8 Denis Leamy was not considered serious.

Ireland won a physical encounter thanks largely to a hat-trick of tries from Denis Hickie and touch downs from Ulster wing Andrew Trimble and Paul O'Connell.


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