Northampton consider appeal over Calum Clark 32 week ban


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Northampton say they are "bound to consider the merits of an appeal" after their back-row forward Calum Clark was banned for 32 weeks.

England hopeful Clark's rugby career is on hold after he was made to pay a hefty price for foul play during a showpiece cup final.

The England elite squad member cannot play again until November 2 following a Rugby Football Union hearing last night.

Clark, 22, was cited after an incident during Northampton's LV= Cup final defeat against Leicester 12 days ago, and then suspended indefinitely by his club.

Clark, who captained Saints in the final, was reported for an act contrary to good sportsmanship, allegedly hyperextending Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins' right arm.

It left Hawkins with a broken elbow and requiring surgery, sidelining him for the rest of this season.

Clark's suspension of more than seven months is among the longest handed out to a senior English player during rugby union's 16-and-a-half-year professional era.

In a statement, Saints said: "The disciplinary panel found that Calum Clark had not intended to injure Rob Hawkins in the course of moving his arm.

"Accordingly, the unfortunate injury suffered by Rob Hawkins was unintentional.

"In the light of that finding of the disciplinary panel, Northampton Saints is bound to express concern and disappointment at the imposition of such a long suspension, even after significant mitigation in recognition in what was accepted to be Calum Clark's genuine remorse.

"Accordingly, the club is bound to consider the merits of an appeal. No further comment will be made at this time."

Television footage of the incident at Sixways, though, could have left few people in any doubt about its severity.

Pictures showed former Bath forward Hawkins reeling away in agony from a 21st-minute ruck. It was an incident that enraged Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill.

In a statement the RFU said: "Calum Clark of Northampton Saints was suspended for 32 weeks for an act contrary to good sportsmanship - Law 10(4) (M).

"Clark pleaded guilty to hyperextending the right arm of Leicester Tigers' Rob Hawkins during the LV= Cup final at Sixways on March 18.

"The suspension will run from March 22 to the November 1. He is free to play again on November 2 2012.

"Clark is ordered to pay hearing costs of £500."

The full judgement of Clark's hearing is expected to be made available later today.

He is the second Northampton forward to receive a lengthy ban this week after club skipper and England hooker Dylan Hartley landed an eight-week suspension for biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris' finger during an RBS 6 Nations game on March 17.

Hartley will be available for England's three-Test summer tour to South Africa and the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham on May 26, should play-off contenders Saints get there.

But Clark faces a far longer period of time in which to contemplate his actions that left an opposition player seriously injured.

A former England Under-20 skipper who joined Northampton from Leeds Carnegie, Clark is viewed among a promising array of young back-row talent currently available to newly-appointed England head coach Stuart Lancaster.