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24th Dec 2016

Here’s the Rory Best ‘gouging’ incident that has Clermont coach up in arms

Franck Azema ain't happy.

Ben Kiely

Rory Best is getting a lot of attention in France for a completely accidental incident in the Champions Cup.

It was such a small moment in Ulster’s 39-32 Champions Cup win over Clermont Auvergne in Ravenhill on December 10, but Rory Best making contact with Davit Zirakashvili’s eye is being dragged into the spotlight after Etienne Falgoux received a heavy punishment for a similar incident.

Although the citing commission deemed it to be unintentional, Falgoux was slapped with a seven-week ban for making contact with Luke Marshall’s eye during the return leg in France the following week

Clermont coach Franck Azema very publicly criticised the punishment, claiming that it illustrated double-standards from the commission. He added that it was very unfair for 23-year-old Falgouz to have his reputation tarnished with such a heavy ban that early into his career, particularly for an incident that he perceived to be innocuous.

“There are two weights, two measures, because Best is a icon of European rugby and Etienne a young player. It is unacceptable. The people change, but the drifts remain the same and the French clubs always charge in the same way while the Anglo-Saxons remain untouchable.”

Azema mentioning the Best incident specifically could potentially have dire consequences for his hopes of becoming the Lions captain for the 2017 tour of New Zealand.

With England captain Dylan Hartley pretty much out of the running following his vile challenge on Sean O’Brien, Best is considered one of the front-runners to claim the captain’s armband.

Being associated with an alleged gouging incident isn’t exactly ideal PR for someone campaigning for such a prestigious position. If the incident continues to get brought up in France, it could have an impact on Warren Gatland’s decision.

However, one quick glance at the replay tells the whole story. It is clear that there was absolutely no malice from Best and the contact was completely accidental. The TMO and the referee cleared the Ulsterman of any wrong doing at the time, so he should be confident that this will all blow over relatively quickly.

Best clermont