Chris Ashton is facing a lengthy ban after he was charged with tip tackling Castres scrum-half Rory Kockott in Sale’s pre-season friendly last week, but he will not face action for punching after new footage of the incident emerged.
The Sharks’ summer signing was shown a red card by referee Romain Poite when he reacted to a flare-up by throwing Kockott to the ground after the Frenchman attempted to wrestle the ball out of his grasp when a penalty was awarded.
“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),” an RFU statement read.
With Ashton only recently recalled to the England training squad by Eddie Jones, any ban could jeopardise his future prospects of a call-up as the low-entry point for suspensions starts at six weeks, which would see the 31-year-old miss Sale’s first five Premiership matches of the season.
That would also see him serving a ban during England’s next training camp, which Jones is due to announce on 20 September, although he can still feature in the squad as he will only be suspended from matches.
Ashton’s previous disciplinary record is unlikely to help his case given that the former Saracens wing was banned for a combination of 23 weeks in 2016 for making contact with the eyes of Ulster centre Luke Marshall and biting Northampton Saints prop Alex Waller.
Sunday’s encounter was littered with ill-discipline even though the match between the Premiership side and Top 14 champions was a non-competitive fixture, with Ashton’s teammate Alexandru Tarus also sent-off for dangerous play in a ruck. Both men will be due to appear at a disciplinary hearing in London on Thursday afternoon chaired by Richard Whittam QC.
Kockott was also sent-off in Sale’s 20-17 victory, while referee Poite also showed three yellow cards in the ill-tempered match.
Sale begin their season on 1 September with a trip to Harlequins, and should Ashton receive the lowest advised ban of six weeks, he will miss subsequent games against Worcester Warriors, Exeter Chiefs, Wasps and Leicester Tigers before returning to availability for the 6 October clash with Newcastle Falcons.
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