Ashton ban adds to England’s woes

ENGLAND wing Chris Ashton has been ruled out of England’s first autumn international against Fiji after being suspended for one week from November 4 for a dangerous tackle on Northampton’s Vasily Artemyev.

The Saracens summer signing has this season received three yellow cards – all for foul play – and consequently had to appear before a three-man panel at a Rugby Football Union Disciplinary Hearing for his punishment to be decided upon.

“We were guided by the IRB [International Rugby Board] recommendation that a one week suspension was appropriate for totting up offences,” said Judge Jeff Blackett, who alongside Jeremy Summers and Julian Morris completed the panel.

“The player was not released back to his club by England for Saracens’ game on Sunday November 4 so it would be inappropriate to commence the suspension immediately.

“We have therefore deferred commencement until Sunday November 4 so he misses a game he would have played in. We are concerned about his tackling technique and encouraged that he and his coaches work to correct it. We would like to add that Chris Ashton took a realistic and mature approach to proceedings and expressed genuine contrition.”

The first of England’s autumn internationals is on November 10, but the three fixtures thereafter – on consecutive Saturdays from November 17 against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand – are ones Ashton is to be available for.

His absence compounds the problems posed to England coach Stuart Lancaster, who learned on Tuesday that the lock Courtney Lawes is likely to miss at least the Fiji fixture and that the hooker Dylan Hartley is set to miss all four.

In Ashton’s absence, the recalled Harlequins wing Ugo Monye may be given a chance to impress in a position where England have little strength in depth.