Paris 1996 – Paris 2010: Spot the Difference
Déjà vu all over again. We remember the videos so well. The thuggish Limerick front rows exposed in their true colours in the city of culture. You have disgraced yourselves again.
Parc des Princes, February 1996. Peter Clohessy dances on the head of Olivier Roumat and the English referee Mr Morrisson misses it. Ireland got walloped 45-10 and now we will never ever manage to win at the Parc des Princes. France moved to the Stade in 1998. The similarities with Stade de France in February 2010 are uncanny.
The Claw ‘escaped’ with a mere 26 week ban though many in the old school Irish rugby establishment thought he should have been banned for life. The general feeling was that his international career was over although he had to have six good years at the top afterwards. Clohessy was just a month short of 30 at the time and Flannery was 31 last October. A long ban could well terminate his international career in advance of the 2011 World Cup.
Back in 1996 Olivier Roumat was so dazed that he could not remember much of the incident and said he didn’t even know whether it was an Irish or French boot that got him. Other French players were more certain and muttered darkly about an eye-gouging of the same Roumat, which he also couldn’t remember although the photographic evidence was pretty graphic. Califano had a few teeth smashed up and Pelous and Gonzalez were also allegedly assaulted. Rugby was slightly more gentlemanly in those days (off the park) but the general chatter was that Claw had been attending to a lot of ‘business’ on Ireland’s last visit to Parc des Princes.
The short video from Saturday’s game repeated again and again over the past 24 hours certainly doesn’t look good for Flannery. The shot shows him approaching Alexis Palisson who has the ball in his hand and then hacking Palisson savagely to the ground making a connection just below the knee. Then he jumps on top of Palisson as the ball runs loose and only for the ref blowing his whistle you would fear that a coup de grace was about to be administered to the prostrated Alexis. The English referee Mr Barnes just like his predecessor in 1996, had not seen the incident and was giving Ireland a penalty until the touch judge drew his attention to Flannery’s assault. However the touch judge doesn’t seem to have seen the incident properly either and suggested that Flannery had shoulder charged Palisson. Clearly the truth was too awful to contemplate. The reaction around the world to Flannery’s crime has been severe. One typical comment was
This guy has been involved in many violent ‘incidents’ in the past… He is a DISGRACE to the game of Rugby !!!He should be cited and put away for many months ! The Irish should be ashamed to have this sub-human specimen playing in their team. Not content to be perceived as cheaters the Irish now want to be seen as a bunch of thugs.
Kinder more sober voices said that it was a red card offence and at a minimum a yellow card. As George Hook said this would have earned a red card in the Premiership (he meant FA Premier League) and of course there the ball would not be normally held in the opponent’s hands. Most of us would agree especially having seen the four second clip that has been whizzing around the media and cyberspace over the past 24 hours.
However if you look at a slightly longer clip maybe 10 seconds long you see a somewhat different picture. The ball is loose in a tense match which was very much still in the balance. The French No 10 Trinh Duc impedes an Irish player illegally, possibly Darcy, then David Wallace tries to pick up and fumbles. As he does so Alexis Palisson, France’s No 11, tackles him, probably illegally also as he doesn’t use his hands. The ball runs free, Palisson picks up and Flannery makes contact very quickly after Palisson picks up possibly within a second. There is a reasonable case that Flannery’s intent in deploying his leg was to fly kick the ball away before Palisson picked up. If so, his timing was awful and regardless of intent probably deserved both a yellow card and the penalty reversal. However it does not appear to have been a premeditated assault as suggested by the deceptive short version video clip and does not belong in the same category as Claw’s Roumat Hornpipe of 1996. Also unlike the 1996 incident the referee dealt with the Flannery incident at the time even if many believe he should have taken sterner action.
Despite the many similarities there appears to be one crucial difference between Clohessy in 1996 and Flannery in 2010. That is intent. There is considerable doubt as to whether Flannery intended to kick Palisson. Indeed he probably did not. If there is a suspension therefore and there may not be one at all, it should be a relatively short one, of four weeks or less. Given recent well documented catastrophes the Shannon club in particular could do with some less bad publicity for a change.
Update 17t Feb 2009
Flannery was today given a 6-week ban until the 29th March. This means he’ll miss the rest of the Six Nations, but will be available to play against Leinster in the Magners League, and against Northampton in the quarter final of the Heineken Cup.