Rugby news in brief: Ronan O’Gara banned after ‘petulant’ kick

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MUNSTER’S Ireland international fly-half Ronan O’Gara was suspended for a week following his citing for kicking Edinburgh lock Sean Cox in a Heineken Cup fixture four days ago.

O’Gara will miss Munster’s Heineken Pool One game against Racing on Sunday as a result, but it does not affect his availability for this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship. O’Gara was cited following the incident at Murrayfield. He admitted the charge when he appeared at a disciplinary hearing in Dublin today in front of independent judicial officer Judge Jeff Blackett.

“The judicial officer upheld the complaint and found that O’Gara had committed a petulant act which was out of character,” ERC said. “He determined that the act was in the lower end of the IRB’s sanctioning regime.”

Estebanez punished for striking Strettle

RACING Metro centre Fabrice Estebanez has received a four-week ban for striking Saracens and England wing David Strettle during a Heineken Cup game last weekend. Estebanez, who pleaded not guilty at a disciplinary hearing in Dublin after being cited for the offence, cannot play again until 11 February and will miss Racing’s Heineken clash against Munster in Limerick on Sunday. Strettle was carried off following the third-minute incident in Nantes, although he has now recovered and is in selection contention for Saracens’ final group game against Edinburgh on Sunday.

Stade Francais player Juan Cruz Guillemain, who also appeared at a Dublin hearing, was banned for five weeks. Guillemain was cited for striking Grenoble player Fabien Alexandre with his head during last Saturday’s Amlin Challenge Cup game between the clubs.

Harlequins close to sealing top seeding

HARLEQUINS are likely to be the top seeds in this season’s Heineken Cup quarter-finals if they beat Biarritz tonight. Quins head to south-west France after wrapping up Pool Three one game inside the distance and securing a home last-eight tie.

They have collected 24 points from a possible 25 so far in defeating Biarritz at home, Connacht (twice) and Zebre (twice), scoring 27 tries. That try tally is the tournament’s best this term, better than either of the only two clubs – Clermont Auvergne and Toulon – who could overhaul them as number one seeds. If Quins win tonight with a bonus point, then no-one can catch them, but a victory alone should still be enough given that Clermont and Toulon would require bonus-point wins over the Scarlets and Montpellier, respectively, tomorrow, along with a hatful of tries.