England winger Chris Ashton is hoping to rescue his Six Nations by appealing against the length of the 10-week suspension that has ruled him out of the Championship.
Having examined the written judgement, Saracens are to contest the ban issued for making contact with the eye area of Ulster centre Luke Marshall in the Champions Cup victory at Allianz Park on January 16.
“Ashton, who pleaded not guilty in the independent disciplinary hearing in London last Wednesday, will be appealing against the level of the sanction imposed,” a club statement read.
Saracens will contend that 10 weeks is too severe a punishment for the incident, despite having failed in a plea for a reduction once already.
The written judgement, published on Friday, revealed that Ashton’s legal team felt the entry-level sanction for the offence of 12 weeks would be “wholly disproportionate” for reasons including the act had no bearing on the outcome of the match and no injury was inflicted on Marshall. Ashton’s good disciplinary record was also highlighted.
It was requested that any suspension be reduced by a minimum of 50 per cent, but judicial officer Jean Noel Couraud declined, citing a previous case for support and noting World Rugby directives of 2009 and 2014 demanding sanctions that would act as a deterrent against the offence of making contact with the eye or eye area.
Ashton pulled Marshall to the ground with his left arm while also grabbing the Irish international’s face with his right hand and Couraud viewed the tackle as a red card offence that exposed Marshall to the risk of serious injury.
Ashton’s legal team argued that the contact with Marshall’s face was entirely accidental and unintended, but Couraud rejected this defence in the belief he had acted recklessly.
If the appeal fails, the 28-year-old former Wigan rugby league wideman will miss the Six Nations having fought his way back into the England squad after falling out of favour under the previous regime because of his defensive frailties.