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Cause emerges for Heineken Cup Final tunnel incident

By Ian Cameron
Leinster contact skills coach Sean O'Brien before the United Rugby Championship match between Vodacom Bulls and Leinster at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The root cause of an altercation during half-time at the Heineken Champions Cup Final on Saturday is being reported.


Following La Rochelle’s 27-26 victory over Leinster, the EPCR confirmed that they were investigating “an incident at half-time during the Heineken Champions Cup final at the Aviva Stadium.”

The incident was said to involve La Rochelle director of rugby Ronan O’Gara, Leinster contact skills coach Sean O’Brien, injured pivot Johnny Sexton and La Rochelle second row Will Skelton.

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It is now understood that Leinster had stationed O’Brien beside the referee’s changing room, which is situated beside the home changing room, which was occupied by Leinster. The Irish province had apparently feared that O’Gara would try to get to referee Jaco Peyper during half-time, in a similar manner to what happened at last year’s final in Marseille with then-matchday referee Wayne Barnes.

O’Brien, who was standing guard, ended up exchanging words with La Rochelle, which escalated into a minor altercation between the parties, which was soon broken up.

The EPCR have said they will not comment further on the matter until their probe is complete.

It wasn’t the only incident behind the scenes that turned bitter, with it also being reported that an irate Sexton remonstrated with Peyper after the final whistle had gone, although the EPCR have not directly addressed the incident.

If Peyper makes a complaint it could potentially see Sexton miss some of Ireland’s warm-up games prior to the Rugby World Cup. The games are seen as crucial for Sexton, who hasn’t played since the Guinness Six Nations where he sustained a groin injury that ended his domestic season.



Despite winning, La Rochelle complained Leinster captain James Ryan disrespected La Rochelle captain Gregory Alldritt by not making eye contact with him at the pre-match coin toss.

Alldritt said in the post-match press conference that “I don’t think James Ryan respected me, he didn’t look me in the eyes when we shook hands at the coin toss.”

He was backed up by O’Gara, who “got word of it on the pitch.”

“My captain and I have a very close relationship. So bizarre action when you go for a toss. Normally you engage eyes, but no eyes were engaged so Greg was disappointed, let down.”


O’Gara also complained the La Rochelle after-match family function was staged in Lansdown and not in the Aviva Stadium.

“There was a little bit of that in terms of Leinster were obviously the home team, but in terms of accommodation for the family post-match gigs, I think we are in Lansdowne – we can’t even get a room in this place. You know, it’s disappointing on that front but we have got to accept that we are seen as the little team but that’s about to change.”

It has since been confirmed that Leinser’s own function was held outside the Aviva Stadium, suggesting O’Gara’s grievances on this matter were misplaced.



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