Blow for Ireland as Flannery handed six-week suspension

JERRY FLANNERY walked into yesterday’s RBS Six Nations disciplinary meeting in Dublin Airport, held up his hands and pleaded guilty to reckless behaviour during last Saturday’s Ireland-France game in Paris.

The 30-year-old Irish hooker went so far as to agree that his offence in launching a kick at French wing Alexis Palisson merited a red card rather than simply the reversal of a penalty decision that had been awarded to his side. His show of remorse for his actions also registered with the disciplinary committee chaired by Roger Morris of Wales. Morris and his tribunal colleagues Mike Hamlin and John Doubleday of England subsequently banned Flannery for six weeks which ends on March 29, by which time the Six Nations Championship will have concluded and he would be available for only one Magners League game before Munster’s Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Northampton.

Although Flannery has the right to appeal, it would appear that his guilty plea has made such a course of action rather unlikely. The IRFU, however, issued a statement that they would “wait to review the written judgement before considering any further possible action.”

As things stand, Flannery is ruled out of Ireland’s four remaining Six Nations matches and also from Munster’s Magners League clash with Glasgow Warriors scheduled for March 26th, three days before the ban ends. He would be eligible for the Magners clash with Leinster likely to be held at Thomond Park on Good Friday, April 2, a week before Munster’s Heineken Cup clash with Northampton.

Yesterday’s statement from the Six Nations disciplinary committee read: “Jerry Flannery was today suspended for six weeks after a Six Nations disciplinary committee upheld the citing against him for kicking an opponent in the match between France and Ireland at Stade de France on Saturday.

“The independent disciplinary committee, chaired by Roger Morris (Wales), with Mike Hamlin and John Doubleday (England), considered the evidence before them, including video of the incident and found that the offending had been reckless rather than deliberate and merited a mid-range sanction under IRB Regulation 17.

“The committee also took account of the guilty plea by the player, who acknowledged at the outset that his action warranted a red card, together with the player’s remorse for the injury caused to Alexis Palisson, the France wing.

“The player is free to commence playing again on Monday, March 29 and has the right of appeal.”

In the absence of a successful appeal, Flannery is likely to be replaced by Ulster hooker Rory Best for the crunch game against England at Twickenham a week on Saturday.

Best is a strong set-piece exponent and was in the running for a place on the Lions tour this summer but the loss of Flannery is a blow nevertheless as Ireland look to pick up the pieces of their shattered Grand Slam defence.


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