No case to answer over O'Gara 'choking' incident, says SRU

THE Scottish Rugby Union has insisted that there is no case to answer over the alleged "choking" of Irish stand-off Ronan O'Gara in the closing moments of Saturday's international at Murrayfield.

There had been no hint of the incident before Eddie O'Sullivan mentioned it at the after-match press conference on Saturday, and the Ireland coach repeated his allegation yesterday that O'Gara had been deliberately strangled and that he knew the culprit, but again refused to reveal the player's identity.

O'Sullivan claimed: "It was a nasty enough incident - he could have died. He went out like a light. If you look at the video he was kicking out and going blue, and John Hayes spotted him immediately and put him into the recovery position, but Ronan just drifted off; he was gone.

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"Someone tried to choke him; someone had their arm around his neck, cut off his air supply and he went blue. I'd rather not say who it was. Yes, I believe it was deliberate - putting your hand round someone's neck and trying to choke them is hard to do by accident."

O'Sullivan did not raise it with Frank Hadden, the Scotland coach, when they spoke at the after-match dinner, but insisted again yesterday that journalists should press the Scotland team for answers.

"You should go along to the Scottish hotel and ask them - it's a simple solution," he added. "If nothing happened then maybe the person involved in the incident could come forward and explain what happened and we'd all be wiser rather than me making accusations that everyone knows I can't substantiate.

"Maybe we're all wrong here, maybe it was a complete and utter accident or he had nothing to do with anything - that would be the simple solution, wouldn't it?"

Asked why nobody seemed to come to O'Gara's aid despite O'Sullivan's insistence that several players saw the incident - Johnny Hayes, the huge prop, was within a couple of feet of O'Gara at the time and was first to his aid, but at no time did he approach any Scottish players - the Irish coach was bullish.

"So you're proposing that the Irish welly into the Scottish and punch somebody, when there's a guy on the ground not breathing?" he replied.

"You want to save the guy on the ground. Ronan was out on the ground when the guys realised what was wrong."

Both the Ireland and Scotland managements reviewed the tapes yesterday and both are understood to have found nothing incriminating. An SRU spokesman said: "We refute any allegation of foul play at the end of the game."

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O'Gara was on the receiving end of a big tackle shortly before the final whistle, after which a ruck ensued. When the final whistle was blown, which at first seemed to indicate that a penalty had been awarded to Scotland, O'Gara remained on the ground in distress with players from both sides calling for medical assistance.

Within a few minutes the dazed stand-off was on his feet and joining in the celebrations with his team-mates. There was no suggestion yesterday that he had suffered any lasting injury.

If there remains no evidence, and the independent citing official uncovers no foul play from his many camera angles, it is incumbent on the Six Nations Committee to take action. They issued an edict recently to coaches to avoid criticising match officials, yet unsubstantiated allegations of intent to seriously injure are far more serious.

Had O'Sullivan named the individual, that player might be at liberty to consider legal action. The Scotsman is aware of which player is the subject of O'Sullivan's allegations, but will not "out" the player on Ireland's behalf in the absence of proof.

If the Six Nations Committee ignore such comments, it would leave a dangerous precedent and a nasty smell lingering over what was a pulsating Six Nations clash.