Schmidt angry over failure to cite O’Connell
Failure to cite makes dangerous incidents like this acceptable, says Leinster coach
Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt.; Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Composed, articulate and quietly simmering, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt took a scalpel to the decision not to cite Paul O’Connell for the ill-placed kick that left Dave Kearney concussed and in hospital.
Schmidt treaded carefully and deliberately detached O’Connell, a man he respects, from the incident, but yesterday’s dissection of the Independent Commissioner’s decision left no one in doubt about the depth of Leinster fury.
In tandem, the comment from Munster coach Rob Penney that the incident was “one of those ones where there was really nothing to be concerned about” may have boosted team morale in Limerick but like the boot itself, was careless enough to cause offence in Leinster.
When Schmidt was asked if it was most ugly incident he had seen in rugby he did not hesitate: “Yes. In 12 years of professional coaching it is,” he said. “Anyone who has been involved in an incident that leaves a player in that condition . . . and we can get into semantics, the toe, the shin the foot . . . let’s be honest, you cannot fly-hack at someone’s head like that. Imagine a ball leaving a ruck and people fly-hacking at it, thinking it’s okay.
“One of the reasons we feel compelled to say something is that Dave Kearney seems to be the forgotten man.
“He was the guy kicked unconscious. He was the guy who was subjected to CT scans and spent an uncomfortable night in hospital. When those sorts of things happen you have to look at kids and the global game and I think it has been damaged. When I see that and people see that they are horrified.”
O’Connell also spoke for the first time about the incident yesterday, knowing any suspension would have hurt Munster’s Heineken Cup hopes as well as his own of late Lions recognition. He has a clear conscience.
“Straight after the game I didn’t think I would have a case to answer because I knew in my own head what had happened,” he said. “But it was only when I looked at it in video that I saw how bad it looked and got a bit worried.
“I would have known in my own head that I didn’t mean anything . . . I was delighted when there was no case to hear. Thanks be to God, there was no citing. It would have been very frustrating at this time of year.”
They are words unlikely to move Schmidt from his position as it was Penney’s comments that partly moved him to speak: the perceived lack of empathy and no publicly expressed view beyond the staunch defence of his talismanic lock.
“Yeah, I was (disappointed) and that’s one of the reasons I’m here today,” said Schmidt. “I’m certainly not here because I want to answer a lot of questions about a job (Ireland coach) I haven’t even been offered and might never be offered. But for Dave’s sake and I think for consistency sake, if you get 14 weeks for spitting – there’s no danger in that at all. Dave could have bled and it could have been very, very serious . . .
“I challenge you to go back and have a look at the look on Felix Jones’ face. “It hides none of the horror he’s just seen. I think that’s the sort of horror that 90,000 other people on YouTube will see.
“I don’t want to make it an emotional thing but inevitably when something like this happens that’s what it becomes. I think if something like that is not cited you have just created a base line that makes things acceptable that can be dangerous to the game.
“My duty is the duty of care to my players. Dave Kearney was in a bad way.”