Page last updated at 23:50 GMT, Saturday, 30 January 2010

Eye 'gouging' at Kent rugby match probed by police

A rugby ball
Pictures of the game on 17 January are being examined

Kent police are investigating an incident at a rugby game in which a player was blinded in one eye when he was apparently gouged by an opponent.

Clarence Harding was taken to hospital during a cup match between his side Gravesend Rugby Club and Maidstone RFC.

The Gravesend club wants its mid-Kent rivals to investigate after surgeons said the 26-year-old was unlikely to regain the sight in his right eye.

The number eight said the ball had been nowhere near his head when he was hurt.

Club officials said they were "deeply concerned" by the injury, which happened earlier this month at Maidstone's Mote Park ground.

Mr Harding said: "I was on the floor presenting the ball for my team-mates when I felt a finger sticking into the corner of my eye.

Life ban call

"It was over in an instant but it dawned on me very quickly that something pretty serious had happened."

Gravesend RFC chairman Graham Haggar said pictures taken during the clash on 17 January were being examined and that no-one had suffered such a serious injury in the club's history.

He said: "We are anxious to co-operate with any investigation to establish what happened in the match and we will support our player and his family in any way we can."

Mr Haggar added any player found to have committed eye gouging should be banned from rugby for life and "face the full weight of the criminal law".

A Kent Police spokeswoman said: "Police are investigating an incident of grievous bodily harm where a 26-year-old man sustained a serious injury to his eye following a rugby match in Maidstone on January 17.

"The incident occurred at the sports field at Mote Park at around 2.40pm."



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