Prop Joe Marler will miss England’s opening two matches of the Six Nations against Italy and Wales after being slapped with a six-week suspension following his red card for Harlequins on Saturday.
Marler was sent off for a dangerous clear-out of a ruck, in which he struck Sale’s TJ Ioane with his shoulder, as Harlequins suffered a 30-29 Premiership defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The 27-year-old pleaded guilty to the charge and was initially handed a seven-week sanction, although his plea and conduct since the incident in question prompted a reduction.
Marler will serve his ban until 20 February, which rules him out of England’s clash with Italy in Rome on 4 February and Wales at Twickenham six days later.
“The panel found that contact was made with the head of TJ Ioane and as a result the mandatory entry point is mis-range,” read a statement from the independent disciplinary panel’s chairman Philip Evans QC.
“The panel considered that the player’s previous record was such that it required an additional period of suspension of one week, however, because of his plea, his conduct since the incident took place and other personal mitigation, the panel allowed some reduction.”
England are also set to be without Worcester’s Ben Te’o for at least the start of their Six Nations defence due to the ankle problem which has sidelined the centre since October.
The 30-year-old, who toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions during the summer, has made just seven appearances for Worcester this season and none since incurring the injury on 14 October.
After England’s tussles with Italy and Wales, there is then a fortnight’s break before their Calcutta Cup showdown with Scotland on 24 February, which remains a potential match for Te’o’s return.