Date set for Quinlan hearing
May 7, 2009
Munster's Alan Quinlan and Leinster's Leo Cullen are separated following their altercation during the clash at Croke Park © Getty Images
Munster flanker Alan Quinlan will discover whether his British & Irish Lions tour dream is over when he faces an independent disciplinary committee next Wednesday.
Quinlan is a major doubt for this summer's tour to South Africa after being cited for allegedly gouging Leinster's Leo Cullen during their Heineken Cup semi-final clash at Croke Park.
The independent citing commissioner John Byett decided Quinlan has a case to answer after television cameras appeared to catch him making contact with Cullen's right eye during Leinster's 25-6 victory.
If found guilty the 34-year-old Quinlan faces a minimum 12-week suspension that would rule him out of the Lions' tour that kicks off against a Royal XV on May 30.
Whether the contact was deliberate or not, the television pictures do not make for pleasant viewing. Eye-gouging is the one act rugby officials are determined to stamp out of the game and recent history, including cases involving Dylan Hartley (26 weeks) and Neil Best (17 weeks), suggests that if Quinlan is found guilty he could face a suspension that stretches into months.
Such a sanction would force Lions head coach Ian McGeechan to make a second change to his personnel before the squad have even met up. Quinlan's Munster team mate Tomas O'Leary suffered a fractured ankle just three days after being selected for this summer's assault on world champions South Africa.
A surprise inclusion in McGeechan's 37-man Lions squad to take on the Springboks, Quinlan was preferred to the likes of England's Tom Croft and Wales' Ryan Jones because of his committed style, character and ability to set the right tone in the camp but his place on the tour is now in jeopardy.
In addition, Wales centre Tom Shanklin picked up a shoulder injury in Cardiff Blues' Magners League clash with the Dragons on Wednesday night that could possibly rule him out of the tour. He will undergo further tests on the injury with a statement on his fitness expected before the weekend.
The Lions are due to fly out on May 24 for a 10-match tour including a three-Test series against South Africa with the high-profie clashes set for Durban (June 20), Pretoria (June 27) and Johannesburg (July 4).