England international James Graham hit with 12-match ban for biting opponent's ear

 

Former St Helens captain James Graham will miss England's autumn internationals after being handed a 12-match ban for biting Billy Slater's ear.

Graham, who is in his first season with Canterbury Bulldogs, was accused by the Melbourne full-back following a fracas during last Sunday's NRL Grand Final, which the Bulldogs lost 14-4.

The 27-year-old prop denied the offence but he was found guilty following a lengthy hearing in Sydney.

Graham was this week named in England coach Steve McNamara's 24-man squad and was due to link up with them next Wednesday for a 10-day training camp in South Africa.

He will miss England's opening game against Wales in Wrexham on October 27 and the international against France a week later, as well as the November 10 final if McNamara's men get there.

The 2008 Man of Steel has been a virtual ever-present in the national team since making his Great Britain debut in 2006, and he made his 18th England appearance in last November's Four Nations final against Australia at Elland Road.

The suspension could also scupper Graham's chances of captaining his country.

Graham stepped in as captain for the 2010 Four Nations Series in Australia and New Zealand when Adrian Morley was injured in the warm-up match, and was thought to be among the candidates to succeed Jamie Peacock following his retirement from the international game earlier this year.

Graham, from Maghull in Merseyside, had enjoyed a hugely-impressive debut season in the NRL but his reputation suffered serious damage through his "moment of madness" in the Grand Final.

Today's hearing lasted for more than three hours but the judiciary panel took less than 10 minutes of deliberating to deliver its verdict.

The not-guilty plea made Graham ineligible for a 25% reduction on the final penalty and it is thought unlikely the Bulldogs will appeal.

An NRL spokesman said the player could appeal "if there is an error in law or that the decision was unreasonable or insupportable having regard to the evidence on which it is based".

He said the club could also contest the length of the ban if they feel it is "manifestly excessive".

A spokesman for the Rugby Football League said a decision on whether or not to withdraw Graham from the England squad will be made after they have studied a report from the Australian judiciary.

"We have asked for a copy of the judgement and, when we get that, we will sit down with Steve and decide what to do next," said the spokesman.

PA

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