O'Connell faces ERC hearing

MUNSTER skipper, Paul O'Connell is set to appear before an ERC disciplinary hearing this week in the wake of his sending off in the province's gritty Heineken Cup victory over the Ospreys at Thomond Park yesterday.

MUNSTER skipper, Paul O'Connell is set to appear before an ERC disciplinary hearing this week in the wake of his sending off in the province's gritty Heineken Cup victory over the Ospreys at Thomond Park yesterday.

O'Connell was shown a red card by French referee Christophe Berdos in the 69th minute after swinging an arm back at Ospreys number eight Jonathan Thomas who was holding on to him.

Lock O'Connell had only been on the field for ten minutes at the time of the incident after being introduced as a replacement in Munster's dramatic 22-16 victory.

Pleading his case to the match referee Berdos before the red card is shown, Paul O'Connell said: "He (Jonathan Thomas) was pulling me back. I swung my arm. I barely touched him".

Lock O'Connell looks set to receive some sort of ban as a result of his red card. He is set to face a disciplinary hearing either tomorrow or on Wednesday.

Munster coach, Tony McGahan said they would let the process takes its course and the province would abide by whatever decision is made.

Munster face a mammoth return fixture against the Ospreys in round four of the Heineken Cup at Liberty Stadium, Swansea on Saturday next at 3.30pm.

Tony McGahan's men currently enjoy a two-point lead over second-placed Toulon - surprise away winners over London Irish at the weekend. Munster boast a four-point advantage over the third-placed Ospreys in pool three.

Tony McGahan revealed his shock at seeing the red card been brandished in Paul O'Connell's direction.

"I was hoping I was colour blind, to be honest with you, that it wasn't red. Unfortunately, my eye sight is still good cos' I'm young enough!," McGahan said

"My feeling was one of shock really. We just had to get on with it and deal with it.

"We only had a brief look at it. We haven't looked at it in depth enough to give any real comment on it. We saw what everyone else saw.

"There was a holding on of the jersey and a reaction towards it. We will have to give it a bit more thought."

O'Connell's second-row colleague Mick O'Driscoll couldn't offer much of an insight in relation to the sending off incident as he hadn't seen it.

"I will be brutally honest with ye (the press), I didn't actually see it. I was shielded nicely from the incident. I cannot give an insight into it," Mick O'Driscoll said.

"The referee saw an incident. He dealt with it the way he dealt with it. It is up to the powers beyond me to sort out what went on. That is all I'm going to say. I didn't see the incident."

O'Driscoll was disappointed with Munster's inability to pick up a try bonus point after the home side struck for their third touchdown of the game through Johne Murphy in the 63rd minute.

Mick O'Driscoll said: "I think we are certainly a level off where we were when we played against Toulon here in October. We were a little disappointed with certain aspects of the game. For some reason we felt it was a game that we never got going to the level we felt we thought we would.

"When we got the third try, things were tipping along nicely. But we seemed to stop at that which was a bit disappointing."

Meanwhile, Munster have been linked with a move for New Zealand centre Ma'a Nonu after next autumn's World Cup.

A weekend report in the Sydney Morning Herald claimed Munster is 'after a world-class centre, and Ma'a Nonu, off contract after the World Cup, is a prime target'.

And a Munster spokesman declined to comment on speculation that full-back Paul Warwick will be leaving the province at the end of the season.

A newspaper report on Sunday claimed 29-year-old Warwick was dis-satisfied with the offer of a one-year contract extension. Warwick has been linked with a move to top 14 French side Stade Francais.