Police investigate rugby eye 'gouging' incident

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The Independent Online

Police launched an investigation into a rugby game after a player was blinded in one eye when he was gouged by an opponent, it emerged.

Clarence Harding, 26, was rushed to hospital during a cup match between his side Gravesend Rugby Club and Maidstone RFC.

The Gravesend club wrote to its mid-Kent rivals demanding an investigation after surgeons said he is unlikely to regain the sight in his right eye.

Last night, Kent Police confirmed they were investigating the incident as the player's club officials said they were "deeply concerned" by the injury.

Mr Harding, who was playing number eight, said: "I was on the floor presenting the ball for my team-mates when I felt a finger sticking into the corner of my eye.

"It was over in an instant but it dawned on me very quickly that something pretty serious had happened. The ball was nowhere near my head at the time."

Gravesend RFC chairman Graham Haggar said pictures taken during the clash on January 17 were being examined and said no-one had suffered such a serious injury in the club's history.

He said: "We are deeply concerned about the horrendous injury suffered by Clarence that has led to him losing the sight in one eye.

"Since the club was established more than 100 years ago, no Gravesend player has ever suffered an injury of this kind.

"We are anxious to co-operate with any investigation to establish what happened in the match and we will support our player and his family in any way we can."

Mr Haggar said any player found to have committed eye-gouging should be banned from rugby for life and "face the full weight of the criminal law".

A Kent Police spokeswoman said: "Police are investigating an incident of grievous bodily harm where a 26-year-old man sustained a serious injury to his eye following a rugby match in Maidstone on January 17.

"The incident occurred at the sports field at Mote Park at around 2.40pm."