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Rugby ace blasts eye gouge

PUBLISHED: 17:16 10 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:28 23 August 2010

PROFESSIONAL rugby star Topsy Ojo has called for a ban on players found guilty of eye-gouging, writes Michael Adkins. The London Irish winger, (pictured) who has represented England, said the horrific practice should be stamped out of the game. He mad

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

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

He made the tough demands after the Times/Reporter 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 number 8 told last week how he was "completely devastated" by the injury and called for the guilty 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: "You think about this player and he is young just enjoying the game and he has lost his sight. No-one should suffer that." michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

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