Chris Ashton: Saracens and England winger given 13-week ban for biting
Saracens and England winger Chris Ashton has been banned for 13 weeks after being found guilty of biting Northampton prop Alex Waller.
After a six-hour hearing, a disciplinary panel found the 29-year-old bit Waller on the arm at a ruck during Saracens' 27-12 Premiership victory at Allianz Park on Saturday.
The panel looked at two counts of biting but dismissed the second charge.
Ashton, who denied both offences, can play again on 19 December.
Saracens will receive a full written judgment from the disciplinary panel on Thursday, then have 24 hours to decide whether to appeal.
The minimum suspension for a guilty verdict was 12 weeks, with a more serious offence potentially carrying a punishment of up to 208 weeks.
Philip Evans QC, who chaired the disciplinary panel, said Ashton's offence was at the lower end of the scale but "aggravated by his previous record".
|Matches Ashton will miss|
|September: 24 v Harlequins (A) P; 30 v Bristol (H) P|
|October:9 v Wasps (H) P; 15 v Toulon (A) ECC; 22 v Scarlets (H) ECC; 29 v Leicester (H) P|
|November: 5 v Gloucester (A) P; 12 v Newcastle (H) P; 20 v Sale Sharks (A) P; 27 v Gloucester (H) P|
|December: 3 v Bath (A) P; 10 v Sale (H) ECC; 17/18 (TBC) v Sale (A) ECC|
|* P = Premiership; CC = European Champions Cup|
Ashton was banned for 10 weeks last season for eye-gouging.
His latest suspension puts a further dent in his hopes of resurrecting his England career.
Ashton has been capped 39 times and was in Eddie Jones' Six Nations squad this year.
However, he was ruled out of the tournament after failing to overturn the 10-week ban for making contact with the eyes of Ulster's Luke Marshall in a European Champions Cup match.
He was then left out of the squad which toured Australia in the summer.
His last England cap came in the summer of 2014, against New Zealand.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall, speaking before the verdict, believes Ashton does not deserve his notoriety.
"Chris has more press than most people get in these situations," he said. "When similar allegations are made against other people, there's not the same fuss.
"It's obviously a serious allegation, but it seems to follow him around. I've really seen Chris Ashton grow as an individual in the four years I have known him."
Chris Jones, BBC Radio 5 live rugby union reporter
"If Ashton had been found guilty of both acts of biting, he could have faced a ban in excess of six months, but the 13-week suspension still has significant repercussions for both the player and Saracens.
"He will miss a host of Premiership games, as well as four rounds of their Champions Cup defence, while any chance of an unlikely international recall has surely gone as well.
"Ashton was on the verge of England selection at the start of the year, but missed the Six Nations after receiving another ban, while he made himself unavailable for the England Saxons in the summer after surprisingly not being selected for the main tour of Australia."