Rugby ace backs ban after player is blinded

PUBLISHED: 15:13 10 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:02 12 August 2010

PROFESSIONAL rugby star Topsy Ojo has called for a ban on players found guilty of eye-gouging. The London Irish winger, who has

PROFESSIONAL rugby star Topsy Ojo has called for a ban on players found guilty of eye-gouging.

The London Irish winger, who has represented England, said the horrific practice should be "stamped out of the game."

He made the tough demands after the Times told him about Clarence Harding, 26, who was blinded in one eye during a game for Gravesend Rugby Football Club (GRFC).

Police are currently investigating the incident in the game against Maidstone RFC on January 17, where GRFC club bosses say he was deliberately injured.

Ojo, 24, played rugby union at Dartford Grammar School from the age of 11, competing across Bromley and Kent, in the U16 and U18 for Kent and London and South East Schools.

He went on to sign for London Irish in April 2006 and made the full England squad a year later.

Clearly shocked, he said: "Wow! That's pretty full-on, that's a bit of a shock to me to be honest. I've not hard anything at all about this incident.

"If it has been done on purpose and can be proved then the penalties have to be severe at all levels of the game.

"Definitely the punishment should be leaning towards the way of a ban. If you put someone out of the game for the rest of their lives it is only fair that if you cause that type of injury, you are banned."

He added: "This never ever should happen in the first place. How can you accidently put your finger in someone's eyes and gouge them? It can't happen, gouging in a player's eye, is that an accident? I don't think so

"Say you are falling in a ruck you may accidently put a finger in someone's eye as you put your hands out but it could not cause that type of injury."

Despite two operations surgeons told South African Mr Harding they could not save the vision in his right eye, he is likely to remain blind because the optic nerve is severed.

The No. 8 told last week how he was "completely devastated" by the injury and called for the player to be banned for life.

Topsy Ojo said he had no experience of such horrific injuries at amateur or professional level but was aware of two high-profile cases in French rugby.

He added: "People are more conscious of this know and it is a serious issue that needs to be stamped out and should not be in the game at any level.

"The whole thing with eye gouging has only really come about in the last year.

"I never heard or saw that at Dartford during my time, nothing like that all.

"In the French cases they had long suspensions and they would now know not to do it again and that it's treated seriously.

"You think about this player and he is young just enjoying the game and he has lost his sight. No-one should suffer that."

The winger, who has only recently returned to action after an injury, added: "I'm glad to be back, getting my fitness back and hoping to get some tries.

"England is a distance away and I'm concentrating on club performances week in week out. I would love a shot at England again.

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