Former England star Chris Ashton could be hit with another prolonged ban after being cited and charged by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) with "acts contrary to good sportsmanship". The Saracens wing is alleged to have bitten Northampton loosehead prop Alex Waller on two separate occasions inside a minute during the first half of an attritional and highly physical 27-12 Aviva Premiership win against former club Saints at Allianz Park on Saturday (17 September).
Ashton will now appear in front of a three-person RFU disciplinary panel in London on Tuesday. If found guilty, the 29-year-old rugby league convert could face a lengthy suspension that would likely rule him out until at least the festive period.
In regulation 17 of its handbook, international governing body World Rugby recommends that a lower end biting offence should carry a ban of 12 weeks. A mid-range misdemeanour is listed at 18 weeks and the most serious cases can carry an exclusion of at least 24. The maximum sanction listed is 208 weeks.
"I have heard the accusation," Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said after the match. "I haven't seen the incident. These things will run their course. I suppose there is a good chance that Chris will be cited as a result, so we will see what happens."
When asked about the incident, Northampton counterpart Jim Mallinder said: "Alex just repeated what he said to the referee [Greg Garner], that he'd been bitten."
Waller also landed himself in a spot of bother during that defeat to Saracens and was sin-binned for a dangerous tip tackle on Jamie George with Northampton leading 12-9 with 25 minutes remaining. He also appeared to put his head on the hooker in an incident that Mallinder bemoaned as a "moment of madness" that precipitated his side's downfall.
Any forthcoming ban for Ashton would be the second he has received so far this year. In February, he failed to overturn a controversial 10-week suspension handed down for supposedly making contact with the eyes of Ulster centre Luke Marshall in a 33-17 European Champions Cup win. That came as a particular blow for the versatile dual-code international as it sidelined him for the entirety of the Six Nations after he had recently been recalled to the England fold by Eddie Jones.