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O'Brien 'embarrassed' by RWC punch

2015-10-15 07:22
Sean O'Brien (Gallo)

London - Ireland flank Sean O'Brien is "embarrassed" by his Rugby World Cup punch on Pascal Pape, but an official report said his French rival was also guilty of "gamesmanship" in the incident.

A report of the disciplinary hearing was hurriedly released by World Rugby on Wednesday one day after O'Brien was banned for Ireland's quarter-final against Argentina.

"Looking back now, it’s something that I wish didn't happen and I'm embarrassed," O'Brien was quoted as saying by judicial officer, Terry Willis, in the report.

"It hasn't been easy the last couple of days. It's something I wish I could take back now," added O'Brien.

The loose forward punched Pape 23 seconds into Ireland's 24-9 win over France in their final Pool D game in Cardiff on Sunday.

Victory in the needle match ensured Ireland finished top of the group and avoided a last-eight clash with defending champions New Zealand.

The punch was not immediately seen by referee Nigel Owens but film of the incident spread quickly on social media.

"I was just trying to get rid of the player off my side and get to where I wanted to be in the defensive line," O'Brien told the hearing as he explained the reason behind his punch.

Pape needed two minutes of treatment and France's doctor told the hearing he had needed help breathing.

"I collapse (sic) to the ground and couldn't breathe anymore," Pape said in a written statement to the hearing.

"All along the game I felt a violent pain in the area where I had been beaten," the lock added.

Pape played on until the 73rd minute and the hearing was told he was involved in several more collisions during the match.

After viewing several video images of the incident, Willis rejected claims by O'Brien's lawyer that the Ireland backrow had been dragged two metres by Pape.

"There was some provocation. Whilst it was present it was not significant," Willis said.

The official added that he agreed with O'Brien's lawyer that Pape "appears to hold onto players temporarily as a form of gamesmanship."

"I cannot accept that there was a significant degree of pulling or dragging of the player by (Pape)," he added, however.

O'Brien could have been banned for two weeks, which would have ruled out any possible semi-final appearance. But the punishment was kept to one week because of his "exemplary record," the report said.

O'Brien's lawyer Max Duthie had argued that there should be no sanction as the "seriousness of the offence was at the very lowest end with no intent and no real injury".

He said "the player would miss a Rugby World Cup quarter-final and that the price to be paid by his team and his country will be significant".

Willis responded that "the player's striking was dangerous. It resulted in (Pape) sustaining an injury with ongoing disabilities".

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