Chris Ashton’s hopes of an England recall for the Six Nations Championship are in the balance after he was cited for eye gouging.
The prolific try-scorer, who won the last of his 39 England caps in New Zealand more than 18 months ago, but was brought back in from the cold by new coach Eddie Jones when he named an extended squad for the Six Nationas last week.
Saracens star Ashton has been cited for allegedly making contact with the “eye(s) and/or eye area” of Ulster centre Luke Marshall during Saturday’s European Champions Cup match at Allianz Park.
If found guilty of the offence, could face a ban of around 12 weeks or more, and if that happens, he would miss the entire Six Nations tournament, which begins for England against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 6.
Ashton has been widely backed to make the starting line-up for Jones’ first game in charge, but his immediate playing prospects now rest on a disciplinary hearing which will take place on Wednesday.
Marshall was one of two Ulster tacklers tying up Saracens full-back Ben Ransom early on in Saracens’ 33-17 triumph, with the incident coming as Ashton tried to keep the ball alive for his side.
It was spotted by the citing commissioner and the 28-year-old will now wait to see if his chances of playing for England for the first time since June 2014 have been dealt a blow.