Chris Ashton has been given a ten-week ban for eye-gouging, effectively ruling him out of the upcoming RBS Six Nations.
Only a week after England coach Eddie Jones named his first squad since taking the helm, Ashton has been handed a ban that rules him out until March 28th, nine days after England's final game.
The incident occurred during Saracen's Champions Cup tie with Ulster last Saturday. Ashton was subsequently cited following the final whistle for an altercation involving Ulster centre Luke Marshall, early in the first half.
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Was it a fair decision?
On video evidence, the decision looks harsh. Though Ashton is undoubtedly too high with his tackle there doesn't appear to be any malice in his intentions.
The RFU are notoriously harsh on any incident involving eye-gouging and Ashton's ten-week ban was actually reduced from 12, due to his good character and compliance.
Rugby fans and journalists alike took to Twitter to express their surprise at the decision:
What now for Ashton?
Having earned his first Six Nations call-up in three years, Ashton will be bitterly disappointed with this sentencing.
Saracens will almost certainly appeal the decision; however, if they are unsuccessful the winger could soon find himself back down the England pecking order.
Culminating in his omission from the World Cup squad, Ashton had fallen out of favour under Stuart Lancaster but looked likely to add to his 39 test caps under the new regime.
Coach Jones is reportedly a fan of Ashton's intense character and excellent support lines in attack, but will obviously have to assess other options for now.
Bath winger Semesa Rokoduguni is favourite to be called up as Ashton's replacement; however, London Irish winger Alex Lewington is also deserving of a chance.
England begin their Six Nations campaign on February 6 with a trip to Murrayfield to face Scotland.
Do you think Chris Ashton's ten-week ban was too harsh? Give us your opinion in the comment box below!
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