World Cup Officials question Healy over eye gouge

Rugby World Cup citing commissioners have questioned Ireland prop Cian Healy over an alleged eye gouging attempt by Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini.

Healy hit out at Ghiraldini during Ireland’s 36-6 win on Sunday over what he felt was a deliberate attempt to make contact with his eyes.

Referee Jonathan Kaplan missed the incident but a citing commissioner in Auckland spotted the incident on television and asked the match commissioner in Dunedin to take a statement from Healy.

“We were asked to make a brief statement by the citing commissioner,” Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton said Monday.

“We did that in the dressing room at the ground. Cian answered several questions by the citing commissioner, through the match commissioner at the ground. We haven’t heard anything.

“Cian gave a factual statement as to what he thought happened.”

Victory took Ireland through to the quarterfinals and eliminated Italy.

McNaughton added that Ireland did not want to comment upon in detail upon the incident, which occurred in an evenly-contested first half at Otago Stadium.

Replays showed Healy facing downward in a contest for the ball and Ghiraldini bringing his hand upward into contact with his opponent’s face.

“We had a similar case the previous week when we were asked back in Rotorua about an incident involving a Russia player,” McNaughton said.

Russia’s Valery Tsnobiladze was suspended for three weeks for striking an Ireland player with his head, but gouging is a more serious offense.

Backs coach Alan Gaffney said Ireland’s players had been determined not to react to any provocation by an infamously passionate Italian side.

“It was addressed before the game and it was addressed by the players at halftime,” Gaffney said. “They stressed the importance of keeping their hands in their pockets.”

Gaffney said the game had been a testing one for him personally, even though Ireland eventually prevailed by three tries to none and won Pool C ahead of Australia. Ireland beat the Tri-Nations champion 15-6 two weeks ago.

“I haven’t been as nervous as that since I don’t recall when,” Gaffney said. “It would have been a travesty to leave the Australia game on the shelf and not reach the quarterfinals.”

But Ireland looks set to go into Saturday’s quarterfinal against Wales without hooker Rory Best because of a right shoulder injury.

“Rory Best sprained an AC joint,” McNaughton said. “He’s having manipulation and treatment on it at the moment. We’ll have a better idea after a morning’s treatment. We have all sorts of contingency plans in place.

“He’s been playing fantastic rugby. It would be a blow.”

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