Young Ireland star Tom Ahern was hospitalised after a sickening blow in the Champions Cup.
Ahern was turning out for Munster against Northampton Saints in Pool Three of Europe’s elite competition. Saints pipped the Irish side 23-26 in the end, but suffered a big blow in the process.
Just shy of half-time, Ahern fell to the bottom of a ruck and was seemingly accidentally kneed in the head by Saints hooker Curtis Langdon. Landon’s knee then made contact with the head of Ahern a second time with considerable force.
Ahern’s head rocked backwards in what made for grim viewing. Referee Tual Trainini issued a red card after reviewing the replays, with 23-year-old Ahern taken to hospital where he remained overnight.
On Sunday afternoon Munster issued a statement on Ahern’s condition, writing: “Tom Ahern has returned home after spending the night under observation in hospital after sustaining a head injury against Northampton last night. Get well soon, Tom”
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Despite going down to 14 men, Saints battled on in the second half to secure the victory, and topped their group ahead of the Round of 16.
However, the moment has split opinion among rugby fans and commentators on social media. “The ref has got that absolutely spot-on,” said former Munster lock, Donncha O’Callaghan on commentary duty for TNT Sports.
Former Ireland star Alan Quinlan said: “I don’t think it was intentional, but it was reckless.”
Many fans on social media disagreed, with one saying: “A red card for Curtis Langdon is a shocker. He didn’t mean to do that. The game is gone.”
Another countered: “Well he had a good look before he did it and Ahern had to stay in hospital overnight, it was a cheap shot in my opinion.”
Another fan wrote: “That is a disgrace, World Rugby, how can that be a red card for Langdon? Nonsense.
And another summed it up by saying: “Seen so many different takes for this Langdon red card. It is debatable. However, you shouldn’t be allowed to “accidentally” knee an opponent in the head twice in 5 seconds. It’s reckless.
Langdon will now face an EPCR disciplinary panel to decide whether he requires further punishment