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The fortunes of the four proud provinces could hardly be more contrasting.
Leinster’s progress to the knockout stages has already been serenely completed before Christmas after Saturday’s less-than-feverish romp over Northampton.
Ulster look well set to join them again in the last eight pending a pool shoot-out away to Clermont and Connacht are hanging in there after an astonishing, Munster-like, last-ditch victory over Gloucester. But, as for the famed escape artists themselves, the stark reality is that Munster must beat Racing in Paris next time out to stay alive.
This followed their bruising 15-6 loss to Saracens in the weekend’s heavyweight contest at Allianz Park on Saturday, the ramifications for which go far beyond any ill-feeling or actions taken as a result of alleged derogatory remarks made to the Saracens hooker Jamie George by Munster’s head of medical Dr Jamie Kearns.
Moving into the 50th minute of the game, prior to a Saracens lineout, it is understood that Dr Kearns took objection to George kicking the ball at Niall Scannell, and at some point in a lengthy, face to face exchange, told him to ‘F*** of, you fat p****.’
After pointing and talking at Dr Kearns and/or others on the sideline, an irate George turned to remonstrate again and the Saracens hooker was pushed back by Jack O’Donoghue.
When James Cronin did likewise, Mako Vunipola and Vincent Koch joined in, the latter pushing Cronin in the face before Nick Isiekwe charged at and grabbed O’Donoghue by the collar, which was the cue for the two locks from each side and gradually the rest of the two teams, to join in. Several of the prime instigators, with the exception of George, would have been oblivious to what Dr Kearns said.
Saracens’ captain, Owen Farrell, was actually the player penalised for steaming in from “10 metres” by referee Pascal Gauzère, which seemed rather selective, to say
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