Sun, Aug 19, 2007 - Page 24 News List

Kiwi says sorry for injuring Irish skipper in `friendly' match

AGENCIES , PARIS AND BORDEAUX

Bayonne second row Mikaera Tewhata has offered his apologies to Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, who could miss his country's first two World Cup matches after sustaining a crushing punch to the face by the New Zealander.

The 28-year-old O'Driscoll, regarded as one of the finest backs in the world, sustained a fracture to his nose and damage to his cheekbone when he was punched during the midweek friendly which the Irish won 42-6.

Tewhata said he did not target O'Driscoll -- and only lashed out because he thought the Irishman was going for another Bayonne player as both sets of players squared up in the 62nd minute of an incident-packed game.

"When I lashed out, I didn't know I had hit O'Driscoll," said Tewhata in yesterday's L'Equipe newspaper.

Asked if he regretted his actions, he added: "Yes, I hugely regret it. It's not in my nature. It's the first time I've punched someone. It was simply an unfortunate reflex action."

According to L'Equipe, Tewhata, who said he has been shown only two yellow cards, for "techincal fouls," in his six years with the Basque club, was close to tears during the short interview.

And the New Zealand-born lock said he would like nothing more than to offer his apologies to O'Driscoll, who will miss Ireland's World Cup opener against Namibia and could miss the second match against Georgia.

"I wish I could tell him how sorry I am. The first thing I did [the next day] was to try and find out how he was. I really hope he will be able to participate in the World Cup," Tewhata said.

"I want to offer him my heartfelt apologies. I would like to see him face to face, shake his hand and make peace," he said.

Crucially, O'Driscoll should be fit for the two crunch games against France and Argentina.

Bayonne announced later yesterday that they had banned Mike Tewhata for the next two matches.

"Bayonne have decided not to field Mike Tewhata in his next [two] games of the Baionan Rugby Tour," the French club said in a statement yesterday.

Irish team officials said they did not intend to take the matter any further but said they would welcome an inquiry by the French Rugby Federation.

This story has been viewed 2016 times.
TOP top