England’s Chris Ashton facing six-week ban for tip-tackle

Sale Sharks back sent off for incident with Rory Kockott during Castres friendly

Chris Ashton could be banned for up to six weeks after he was sent off during a pre-season friendly. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Chris Ashton could be banned for up to six weeks after he was sent off during a pre-season friendly. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Chris Ashton is facing a potentially longer ban than originally thought after he was sent off in a pre-season friendly.

The English Rugby Football Union said that Sale Sharks and England wing Ashton was dismissed for a tip tackle on Castres scrum-half Rory Kockott during last Friday’s game.

He will face an independent disciplinary panel in London on Thursday, chaired by Richard Whittam QC.

It was initially understood that Ashton had been red-carded by French referee Romain Poite for punching Kockott during what was a feisty encounter.

But the offence has now been confirmed as a tip tackle, leaving Ashton facing a potential minimum ban of six weeks if found guilty. The minimum suspension for punching or striking is two weeks.

Video footage provided by the RFU on Tuesday appears to show Ashton lifting and dropping a Castres player to the ground.

Any period of suspension could rise given how the panel views its level of seriousness, while Ashton has previous convictions.

Likely to be counting against him at the hearing will be a total of 23 weeks he missed in 2016 after being found guilty of biting and making contact with the eye area of an opponent.

In a statement, the RFU said: “Ashton was shown a red card by referee Roman Poite in the 46th minute of the pre-season fixture between Castres Olympique and Sale Sharks on Friday 17 August 2018.

“This was for a tip tackle on Rory Kockott contrary to law 9.18 (a player must not lift an opponent off the ground and drop or drive that player so that their head and/or upper body make contact with the ground).”

Ashton’s Sale team-mate Alexandru Tarus was also sent off in the game — for dangerous play at a ruck — and he too faces a disciplinary hearing on Thursday.

Although the game was staged in France, normal RFU disciplinary procedures apply.

Ashton’s suspensions in 2016 influenced his decision to join French club Toulon for the 2017-18 season, which contributed to him failing to win a cap under current England head coach Eddie Jones.

Having set a new Top 14 try-scoring record in his first year, however, Ashton left Toulon for Sale this summer in the hope of reigniting his England career while addressing some family issues.

While the prospect of adding to his 39 caps this autumn rose with his selection in Jones’ pre-season squad that met earlier this month, a ban could rule him out of the next camp and see him miss the start of Sale’s Gallagher Premiership campaign.

Sale begin their league season against Harlequins on September 1st, and also face appointments with Worcester, Exeter, Wasps and Leicester next month.

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