Ireland lock Paul O’Connell has been banned for four weeks for striking Jonathan Thomas in a Magners League game and can’t play until 10 January.

The full text of the hearing’s findings are:

Paul O’Connell, the Munster replacement (No 19), appeared before an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin today (Thursday, 16 December, 2010) as a result of the red card he received during the Heineken Cup Pool 3 match against the Ospreys at Thomond Park on Sunday, 12 December, 2010.

Here’s the incident, what do you think?

The red card was issued to Mr O’Connell in the 69thminute of the second half by referee Christophe Berdos (France) for striking the Ospreys player Jonathan Thomas in contravention of Law 10.4 (a).

Mr O’Connell, accompanied by his solicitor Mr Donal Spring and Munster team manager Shaun Payne, contested the red card. The ERC Disciplinary Officer, Roger O’Connor, presented the case against the player.

After hearing submissions from both parties and considering the evidence, the independent Judicial Officer, HHJ Jeff Blackett (England) upheld the red card and determined that the act had been deliberate but that there had been no intention to injure Mr Thomas.

The independent Judicial Officer found that the offence was in the mid range (entry point: 5 weeks) of the level of seriousness for an offence of this type. Having taken into account any mitigating factors, such as Mr O’Connell’s good disciplinary record, the independent Judicial Officer reduced the suspension from the entry point by one (1) week which resulted in the final suspension of four (4) weeks. Mr O’Connell will be free to play from 10 January, 2011.

Law 10.4 (a) Striking – A player must not strike an opponent.

IRB recommended sanction – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid Range: 5 weeks; Top End: 8+ weeks; Maximum 52 weeks

Both parties have the right to appeal.

Notes:

(i) Red Cards

a) The case of any player sent off in the Heineken Cup or Amlin Challenge Cup game shall be adjudicated by an independent Judicial Officer as soon as is practicable.

b) Until the hearing the player is ineligible to play in any tournament.

(ii) Independent Disciplinary Hearing

a) The independent Judicial Officer is chosen by the Chairman of the independent Disciplinary Panel, Professor Lorne Crerar.

b) Both parties to the hearing (ERC and the player) have the right to appeal decisions of the independent Disciplinary Hearing. Appeals must be lodged within 72 hours of receiving the full written decision of the independent Judicial Officer.