England star Chris Ashton is to miss the entire Six Nations after being handed a ten-week ban for an incident in a European Champions Cup game on 16 January. The 28-year-old Saracens winger was cited for making contact with the eyes of Ulster's Luke Marshall.
The suspension means he will miss the tournament, having only just been recalled to the England squad by new coach Eddie Jones following an 18-month absence. Ashton has already won 39 caps for his country and was looking forward to resuming his international career in England's opening game of the tournament against Scotland on 6 February.
The winger – who had fallen out of favour with previous England coach Stuart Lancaster – attended a disciplinary meeting at a hotel near Heathrow Airport on 19 January. Speaking prior to the hearing, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall suggested the decision to cite Ashton was an unfair one.
"I would love to talk about it, I really would — I have a very strong view on it. But I don't suspect it is that wise to talk about it when the hearing is tomorrow [20 January]," he said, according to the Daily Mail. "I am hoping that fairness will win through and everything is OK and he will be free to play against Toulouse this weekend for us."
The ten-week verdict was a reflection of the jury's view that the offence was at the low end of World Rugby's sanctions, while Ashton's good character and good conduct were also considered. Ashton has the right to appeal the decision, but as things stand, he will miss the entirety of the tournament, which finishes for England against France on 19 March.