HE is widely known as one of the finest rugby players of his generation and for putting ‘the fear of God’ into his opposition, but Paul O’Connell has expressed concern that “someday someone’s going to do damage with a punch” and that the full rigours of the law may have to be brought to bear.
Speaking at A Question of Violence in Sport in the University of Limerick last week, an open forum examining the role and impact of violence and aggression in sport from the perspective of a player, the towering Munster and Irish lock said that modern conditioning and weight training in professional rugby may lead to more injuries among players.
Stressing that he not believe that there is a problem with violence in sport at the moment, the Drombanna man nonetheless expressed concern for the future of the sport.
“Generally in sport a few punches might be thrown over various incidents and it is generally not a problem because guys don’t do damage,” said Paul, well known for his own exemplary disciplinary record.
“But now with training and weights guys are becoming more and more powerful and someday someone’s going to do damage with a punch and the law may have to be involved,” he added.
The event, part of the Contemporary Understanding of Emotions in Society research group examining the role of emotions in society - in this case through a conversation between two experts in their fields - was held in association with the School of Law at UL.
Professor Jack Anderson from Queens University participated in the discussion with the Munster star and stated that “no area of society, not even sport, can operate outside the law”.
“Players must be aware that acting in violent manner which is clearly outside the rules and spirit of the game, may make them liable to legal action and even criminal liability,” he said.
“An assault is an assault whether it occurs on the street, in the family home or on the sports field.”