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Saturday Sep 25, 2021

Imagine giving Keith Wood a right hook, and the ref sends your teammate off

Back in 1999 French flanker Philippe Benetton gave Ireland legend Keith Wood a cheap right hook at Lansdowne Road in the Five Nations championship.

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Wood joined a French maul in the second half and cleared out Benetton with a hard challenge, leaving both players on the turf away from the action.

However as the Irishman lay face down on the ground the French flanker immediately got back to his feet and punched Wood directly in the side of the face, leaving him clutching his head with both hands.

Irish players rushed in to push Benetton away and while no further punches were thrown, the officials gathered at the side of the pitch to determine the severity of the incident.

Remarkably however, the nearside touch judge confused Benetton with French winger Philippe Bernat-Salles, who was shown a yellow card on his teammate’s behalf.

The confused winger had nothing to do with the incident meaning Benetton got away with one of the most blatant acts of foul play you’re likely to see on a pitch in front of a raucous home crowd in Dublin.

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This mistake by the officials came under further scrutiny as France came back from a nine-point deficit to win the game by a single point in the opening round of the tournament. However this was the only win for Les Bleus in what was otherwise a miserable championship for the French, leaving them bottom of the table behind Ireland on points difference.

Wood earned 58 caps for Ireland throughout his career plus a further five Test match appearances for the British & Irish Lions across two separate tours to South Africa and Australia.

The hooker was also the inaugural winner of the World Player of the Year award in 2001 and retired from professional rugby after the 2003 World Cup in Australia.

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