Dangerous gouge allegations could damage Rory Best's Lions hopes
Clermont Auvergne's finger-pointing could mean bad news for Rory Best's chances of being handed the Lions armband.
The Ireland captain is one of the front-runners to lead the Lions on their tour of New Zealand in 2017, particularly after Dylan Hartley's recent controversies on the field have all but ruled the England skipper out of contention for the gig.
Hartley made the headlines earlier this month after his disgusting swinging-arm challenge on Leinster's Sean O'Brien in the Champions Cup. He was handed a straight red for the dangerous tackle while O'Brien was subsequently taken off the field in a stretcher.
However, the recent citing of Clermont Auvergne's Etienne Falgoux has seen Best's name crop up over an incident involving him and Davit Zirakashvili during his province's recent 39-32 Champions Cup win over the Top 14 outfit t the Kingspan stadium. Falgoux was handed a seven-week ban for making contact with Luke Marshall's eye during the return leg in France the following week, despite the fact that the incident was deemed to be unintentional by the citing commission.
Clermont's Franck Azema criticised the punishment, claiming it showcased double-standards as Best was cleared for the exact same act on Zirakashvili the week before.
"There are two weights, two measures, because Best is a icon of European rugby and Etienne a young player. It is unacceptable. The people change, but the drifts remain the same and the French clubs always charge in the same way while the Anglo-Saxons remain untouchable. There is no equity in sanctions and this is very detrimental to Etienne who has always been exemplary in his behavior and who always works with this attention to detail. I understand that for him, it is humiliating and vexing to begin his career with a disciplinary record of this type. He does not deserve that."
Previous week Rory Best caught Zirakashvili in the eye but when Clermont raised the matter they were told it was not intentional - no citing pic.twitter.com/zumddf3agA
— Paul Eddison (@pauleddison) December 23, 2016
While Best's incredible form this season is likely to see him get selected for the Tour, these comments could hinder his chances of being chosen as captain by Warren Gatland. The Kiwi may be inclined to go for a 'safer bet,' such as Sam Warburton or Alun Wyn Jones.