RUGBY UNION: Clohessy ban adds to misery

France 45 Ireland 10; Saint-Andre, Ntamack 2 Tries Penalty try Castel 2, Accoceberry, Campan Castaignede 5 Conversions Humphreys Penalties Humphreys

While France stamped their authority on this match and revived their chances of winning the championship, Peter Clohessy imposed a stamp of the unacceptable kind and yesterday he paid the penalty, receiving a thumping 26-week ban. The Young Munster prop put the boot into Olivier Roumat who needed two stitches to a head wound. It could have been a lot worse.

The punishment was meted out by Alan Hosie, the former Scottish international referee, after Clohessy had been cited. Hosie, the match commissioner in Paris, was asked by officials from both the French federation and the International Rugby Football Union to investigate. He watched a television replay of the incident on Saturday evening and found Clohessy guilty of foul play. The player attended the hearing, as did Pat Whelan, the Ireland manager, but they were not informed of the ban until they arrived in Dublin yesterday.

Ireland are allowed to lodge an appeal and Whelan said he thought the sentence was "very severe". Clohessy, who will be 30 next month, won his 16th cap on Saturday and it will almost certainly be his last. The ban is for "playing weeks" which means that not only will he miss Ireland's next two matches but the beginning of next season. It is understood that in his defence he said that his action was not intentional. The controversial tight-head has previous form: he was suspended for 10 weeks for stamping during a club game in 1993. But for business commitments - he missed the World Cup last summer - he would have made more appearances for Ireland. Now he will be able to give his company his undivided attention.

After viewing the incident on television some Irish commentators thought that Clohessy's action warranted a life ban, but Roumat himself was more sanguine about the affair. "I don't know who kicked me," he said. "I don't even know if it was a Frenchman or an Irishman. If it was intentional then, of course, whoever did it should be banned.

"It is strange that four French forwards were injured. In the past it has always been France who were accused of dirty play."

Yesterday the finger was being pointed at Ireland who two years ago returned from Paris licking their wounds after being roughed up. It was not a kick to the head that forced Roumat to leave the field on Saturday but a poke in the eye. He had no idea who caused that either. Christian Califano needed dental treatment after receiving a blow to the mouth and others in the wars were Fabien Pelous and Jean-Michel Gonzalez. Gonzalez was kicked on the knee and again the finger was pointing at Clohessy.

None of the worst incidents were picked up by the match officials and it was left to the Irish and French management to act on video evidence. Following the England match, in which the centre Richard Dourthe was seen stamping on Ben Clarke, France suspended him for two matches.

The changes France made after the defeat by Scotland transformed the side. They were miles quicker in thought and deed and Ireland were cut to ribbons. France have finally chosen wisely and the combination of Guy Accoceberry and Thomas Castaignede at half-back provided them with the launch pad to run Ireland ragged.

Stephane Glas, who came on as a replacement for Thierry Lacroix, injected real pace and he created openings almost every time he touched the ball.

Whereas France are almost spoilt for choice, Ireland seem to have hit rock bottom. The recall of Niall Hogan was a disaster. Whatever chance David Humphreys had of making his mark on the game disappeared once Hogan was in possession. His passing was almost too bad to be true and Humphreys, who needed all the protection he could get, spent most of the game wondering whether he would receive the ball at his feet or over his head.

"I knew they'd be a handful," Murray Kidd, Ireland's New Zealand coach, said, "but our defence disappeared. We also have to ask some questions about our ball retention. There are some positive things we can take from the game."

Ireland will have to make further changes for the match against Wales in Dublin on 2 March and some will be enforced. Jim Staples, the captain, who went off at half-time suffering from concussion after tackling the phenomenal Emile Ntamack, is automatically ruled out. Perhaps the only fortunate thing that can be said for Staples is that he cannot remember much about the game and nor would he care to be reminded.

Ireland's heaviest defeat in the 87-year history of the series against the French could have been even heavier and about the only indignity they managed to sidestep was that they did not become the first country to concede 50 points in the championship. Italy's case for the five nations to become six is probably strengthened by such a result.

It was Ireland's 12th defeat in a row to France since 1985, their 12th in 12 visits to Parc des Princes. They have never won there and never will because in 1998 the French intend to use the new Stade de France, a complex being developed in St Denis, north of Paris for the soccer World Cup final.

FRANCE: J-L Sadourny (Colomiers); E Ntamack (Toulouse), T Lacroix (Dax), O Campan (Agen), P Saint-Andre (Montferrand, capt); T Castaignede (Toulouse), G Accoceberry (Begles); C Califano (Toulouse), J-M Gonzalez (Bayonne), F Tournaire (Narbonne), A Benazzi (Agen), O Roumat (Dax), L Cabannes (Racing), F Pelous (Dax), R Castel (Toulouse). Replacements: S Glas (Bourgoin) for Lacroix, 22; M Perie (Toulon) for Califano, 52; S Despagne (Toulouse) for Roumat, 52; M de Rougemont (Toulon) for Gonzalez, 70.

IRELAND: J Staples (Harlequins, capt); R Wallace (Garryowen), J Bell (Northampton), K McQuilkin (Bective Rangers), N Woods (Blackrock); D Humphreys (London Irish), N Hogan (Terenure College); N Popplewell (Newcastle), T Kingston (Dolphin), P Clohessy (Young Munster), P Johns (Dungannon), G Fulcher (Cork Constitution), J Davidson (Dungannon), V Costello (St Mary's College), D Corkery (Cork Constitution). Replacement: M Field (Malone) for Staples, h-t.

Referee: E Morrison(Eng).

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