Saracens winger Chris Ashton has been suspended for 10 weeks for making contact with the eye of Ulster's Luke Marshall - putting his hopes of a Six Nations comeback in tatters.
Following an independent disciplinary hearing in London on Wednesday, Ashton was found to have breached Law 10.4 (m): Contact with the eye(s) and/or eye area.
Ashton was cited by the match citing commissioner, Yves Thieffine (France), after last weekend's European Champions Cup game for an incident in the 16th minute.
The 29-year-old who won the last of his 39 caps in the defeat by New Zealand in June 2014 - had recently been called into Eddie Jones' Six Nations squad, having been overlooked by Stuart Lancaster for last year's World Cup.
That recall looks in major doubt now though after Wednesday’s suspension. Although Ashton has the right to appeal he will currently be ruled out until March 28th - with England’s final Six Nations game coming on the 19th of the same month.
The independent Judicial Officer, Jean-Noel Couraud (France), heard evidence and submissions from Ashton, who pleaded not guilty to the offence, from the Saracens team manager JP O'Reilly, from the Saracens legal representative, Chris Smith, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.
In upholding the citing complaint, the Judicial Officer found that Ashton had committed an act of foul play that warranted a red card. He determined that that offence was at the low end of World Rugby’s sanctions and selected 12 weeks as the appropriate entry point.
He added one week as a deterrent according to World Rugby’s memorandum regarding offences of this nature, before reducing the sanction by three weeks due to Ashton’s good character and good conduct at the hearing. He then imposed a suspension of 10 weeks.