Anxious wait for Quinlan and McGeechan
May 3, 2009
TV cameras appeared to catch Munster flanker Quinlan making contact with the face of Leinster skipper Leo Cullen © Getty Images
Lions head coach Ian McGeechan will be among those waiting anxiously to discover if the fall-out from Leinster's Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Munster will strip him of the services of Alan Quinlan.
The Munster blindside flanker is an the centre of an alleged gouging row after the TV cameras appeared to catch him making contact with the face of Leinster skipper Leo Cullen during Saturday's pulsating clash at Croke Park.
Quinlan, a surprise inclusion in McGeechan's 37-man squad, was preferred to the likes of England's Tom Croft and Wales' Ryan Jones because of his committed style, character and ability to set the right tone in the camp but his participation in the tour is now in the balance.
The independent disciplinary officer, John Byett from England, has until 7.30pm on Tuesday to study the tape and decide whether the incident was worthy of a citing. Recent history, including cases involving Dylan Hartley and Neil Best, suggests that if Quinlan is cited and subsequently found guilty he could face a suspension that stretches into months.
Quinlan, who appeared to apologise to Cullen immediately after the match, received glowing character references from his Lions and Munster skipper Paul O'Connell and the Leinster coach Michael Cheika.
Cullen refused to discuss his post-match conversation with Quinlan or comment publicly on the incident but O'Connell said: "Quinny isn't that type of guy. He is a tough player. It is the one thing he hasn't got in his record book. If it looked bad I am sure there was nothing in it."
A suspension would almost certainly rule Quinlan, 34, out of the Lions tour and force McGeechan to make a second change to his personnel before the squad have even met up. Quinlan's Munster team mate Tomas O'Leary suffered a fractured ankle just three days after being selected for this summer's assault on world champions South Africa.
The Lions management will meet in Cardiff today, where the Blues tackle Leicester in the other semi-final, to finalise O'Leary's replacement in the squad.
Munster's defeat will allow their seven Lions to join up with the elite tourists sooner than they would have wanted while Leinster's South Africa-bound players, including inspirational centre Brian O'Driscoll, can now look forward to the Heineken Cup finale on May 23.
"People had questioned our pride and our passion but we produced a big passionate performance to prove those critics wrong," said O'Driscoll following his side's stunning upset of Munster. "We had also lost to Munster twice this season and we really felt we owed them one."
Captain Cullen was also full of praise for his side's clinical edge that enabled them to erase the memory of the defeat to Munster at the same stage in 2006.
"The key for us was taking our opportunities and it was nice to capitalise on the pressure we created," said Cullen. "Munster are a team that pride themselves on their physicality and we had to work hard to match them. We talked about being clinical and taking our chances and that's what we did."
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