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Football: FRENCH LOSS LIFTS EDDIE; SCOTLAND 18 IRELAND 19.

Byline: By MICHAEL SCULLY, Chief Sports Writer

IRELAND can win their first Championship in 22 years on St Patrick's Day in Rome - after England scored a surprise victory over France yesterday.

It was a welcome boost for coach Eddie O'Sullivan after Paul O'Connell was ruled out of Saturday's clash with a fractured thumb.

Former Irish underage star Shane Geraghty came off the bench to help mastermind the 26-18 win for England.

That leaves just four points in the difference between table-toppers France and Eddie O'Sullivan's side, who staged a late comeback to beat Scotland 19-18 at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Ireland, who have never won a Six Nations title, take on buoyant Italy in their final game on Sunday while France host the Scots in Paris and England travel to Wales with renewed hope of taking the title themselves after seeing off France 26-18 yesterday.

But last night the focus remained on O'Sullivan's claim that out-half Ronan O'Gara had been deliberately choked in the final moments of Ireland's bruising Triple Crown success.

"It's a very unfortunate incident and it's a pity it is overshadowing the game,'' O'Sullivan said yesterday. ''It was a nasty incident - he could have died.''

The Ireland coach again refused to name the Scottish player he alleges attempted to choke O'Gara, who lost consciousness in the ruck.

"You should go along to the Scottish hotel and ask them - it's a simple solution,'' he said.

"Ronan has the least amount of information - he went out like a light.

"If you look at the video he was kicking out, actually, and he was going blue."

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TRIUMPH: Ireland claimed the Triple Crown
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 12, 2007
Words:273
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