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Heineken Cup
O'Connell slapped with four-week ban
ESPNscrum Staff
December 16, 2010
Munster lock Paul O'Connell waits for the kick-off, Northampton Saints v Munster, Heineken Cup, Franklin's Gardens, October 10, 2009
Paul O'Connell has been banned for four weeks © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Paul O'Connell
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Teams: Ireland | Munster

Munster lock Paul O'Connell has been hit with a four-week ban for striking Ospreys No.8 Jonathan Thomas following a hearing at European Rugby Cup (ERC) headquarters in Dublin.

The former British & Irish Lions skipper was red carded after catching Thomas with a swinging arm in the 69th minute of Munster's Heineken Cup victory over the Ospreys at Thomond Park last weekend, souring his European comeback after nine months on the sidelines with a groin problem.

O'Connell's case was heard by Jeff Blackett, who imposed a mid-range sentence after determining that 'the act had been deliberate but that there had been no intention to injure'. The sanction rules the 31-year-old out of this weekend's rematch with the Ospreys as well as possibly limiting his involvement in a crucial away tie against Toulon on January 15, five days after the end of the suspension.

The verdict will have been eagerly awaited by the Ireland management, who will have O'Connell firmly in their plans for their Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on February 5.

Munster team manager Shaun Payne admitted that they were disappointed with the result and confirmed that any decision on an appeal would follow the delivery of the written judgment.

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