Attoub handed 70-week ban for eye-gouging

By Rhys Hayward

Rugby union

The news that Stade Francais prop David Attoub will serve a 70-week ban for eye gouging should be greeted with joy throughout the Rugby community.

There have been a number of high profile incidents of the sport’s most deplorable offence over the past few months but this ban, imposed by the European Rugby Cup, amounts to the second longest ban ever handed out in the European game.

Attoub, joins his Stade team-mate Julien Dupuy on the sidelines after the French scrum-half was banned last month for another gouging incident in the same game.

Stephen Ferris, the Ulster back-row forward who was on the receiving end of both players’ misdemeanours, described Attoub’s attack as “extremely painful.”

He said “the finger in my right eye was forced downward in a poking and gouging motion; it was someone trying to drive a finger as hard as he could into my eye socket and I could not prevent it.”

The decision to impose such a lengthy ban upon Attoub is a relief as there has been a growing consensus amongst medical professionals and those involved in the game that a serious injury could occur if nothing was done to dissuade acts of thuggish impudence.

Gouging is an unacceptable, cowardly form of intimidation which should carry punishments of the kind Attoub has been hit with as standard. There is instance whatsoever where a rugby player should have to worry about suffering blindness whilst playing the game, as could well have happened to Ferris in this instance.

There was indignation amongst many observers last summer when the South African Schalke Berger was shown only a yellow card for gouging Tommy Bowe during the second Lions test match and even more when his retrospective ban amounted to a measly eight weeks.

And with Rugby facing an image crisis following the Harlequins bloodgate scandal last season it is refreshing to see administrators attempting to crush any further public humiliation for the game.

Attoub, who was criticised for his apparent evasiveness by the Judicial Officer Jeff Blackett, will appeal his ban but the ERC should be actively encouraged to avoid any such leniency and allow his sentence to stand as an example to players throughout Rugby.

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