DISAPPOINTING, if expected news for Ireland coach Declan Kidney last night came with the confirmation Jerry Flannery will face an independent citing commission of the Six Nations Championship tomorrow arising out of an incident in the game against France on Saturday.
In spite of Kidney’s assertion at the Stade de France that he didn’t believe the Irish hooker had a case to answer, TV pictures suggested otherwise. Much was made of the incident involving French winger Alex Palisson in the 26th minute by TV and radio commentators and newspaper reports.
“You never know these days, but I wouldn’t have thought so,” said Kidney when asked whether he felt Flannery would be cited. “The whistle was gone, it was a 50-50 ball, two guys collided, the referee didn’t make anything of it. The touch judge had his flag out and thought it was a penalty.”
Flannery’s indiscretion could cost him a suspension of anything between two and 12 weeks. However, given referee Wayne Barnes only reversed the penalty he had previously awarded Ireland on the word of his assistant, and that the latter believed Flannery had made contact with his shoulder, the incident will almost certainly be regarded in the lower category of offence.
Furthermore, there was no sign of premeditated malice and the Irishman immediately made his regrets known to Palisson. Nevertheless, he could still miss Saturday week’s clash with England at Twickenham. Should that happen, it would mean the continuation of what has been a frustrating season for Flannery, who has been forced to miss several big matches for Munster and Ireland because of an Achilles injury. Furthermore, he was one of the few Irish players in Paris to perform to his full potential.
Flannery would almost certainly be replaced by Ulster’s Rory Best, who himself made a remarkable recovery from a neck injury to sit on the bench and gain some game time in both of the Six Nations matches to date.
Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip is hopeful Flannery will escape censure but added the squad contains reserves with which to cushion any blow.
“Hopefully he doesn’t miss out but, if he does, it will show the strength in depth we have,” said Heaslip.
Meanwhile, the post mortem on what took place in Paris continued in Dublin where Tommy Bowe was one of three internationals on hand for some promotional duties with Puma. The 23-point defeat has regurgitated questions about the Irish team but the Ospreys player doesn’t believe it will necessitate a radical overhaul.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “We gave them two soft tries. Second-half, maybe it was a different story. Obviously, after a loss, things are going to have to be looked at, but we still have a lot to play for in this tournament.”
Bowe could well be involved in one positional change if Rob Kearney, as expected, misses the next game in Twickenham with a media ligament strain. Filling in at full-back would not faze Monaghan man Bowe, who, along with Munster’s Keith Earls, will surely be considered as a possible replacement in the position.
“I’d be more than happy there. I loved playing 13 for the Lions in the summer. I’m very comfortable back there and enjoy it.”
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