In 2001, during the match between the New South Wales Waratahs and the British and Irish Lions, McRae was sent off for punching Irish fly-half Ronan O’Gara 11 times while O’Gara was on the ground, resulting in 8 stitches to O’Gara’s eye.
From many accounts, Ronan O’Gara is a fairly difficult person to like. His service for Munster, Ireland, and the British and Irish Lions needs no introduction, he was better than any half-back in the world, on his day. Such is the nature of brilliant sportspeople, they can get things badly wrong. It’s not worth adding to the rumour mill that always surrounds ROG, and it would be wrong to speculate. Some say Duncan McRae had his reasons–Pundit Arena in particular–but nobody deserves to be the victim of such a cowardly act:
McRae received a seven-week suspension after the disciplinary panel concluded the following:
“The Committee concluded that this was a very serious incident, a repeated striking of a player on the ground who was in no real position to defend himself.”
However, as it was the Australian off-season, the seven week ban amounted to a zero game ban.
McRae reflected on the incident in an interview with The Daily Mail, and he was right in his conclusion that this is all people remember him for:
‘He and I know what happened in there. He did something, I saw red, he was below me and the rest is history. That’s what I’m known for now and I have to live with that. In hindsight, I wish it hadn’t got to that point but I can’t change it now – what’s done is done.’
At 5’8” and little over 160 pounds, McRae was lucky:
“I had to walk past their bench on the way to the tunnel, which was quite a shaky experience,” he said, years later. “I thought it might kick off.”
In the aftermath of the match, McRae became a hate figure, with rumours of death threats from Ireland and public confrontations in the street. O’Gara is remembered as a legend of the game–however flawed he might be; McRae, as a low life thug.