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Five-hour hearing clears Chris Ashton to play with immediate effect

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Fears that the stellar career of Chris Ashton was prematurely ended by last Saturday’s red card have been quashed as the soon-to-retire Leicester winger has had that decision downgraded to a yellow card – freeing him to be selected to play in this Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership semi-final at Sale.


Ex-England pick Ashton, who is to hang up his boots at the end of this season, was sent off shortly before half-time in Tigers’ clash with Harlequins and a feared ban was set to end his career a few weeks earlier than planned.

However, following a five-hour disciplinary hearing on Thursday, Ashton has been given a reprieve and is now in line to take on the Sharks this weekend when defending champions Leicester look to reach another league final.

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How Chris Ashton wants to be remembered | Rugby Roots
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How Chris Ashton wants to be remembered | Rugby Roots

The Ashton case was heard by an independent disciplinary panel chaired by Gareth Graham sitting with Alastair Campbell and John Doubleday and after its conclusion, panel chair Graham said: “The player was charged with dangerous tackling, contrary to law 9.13, following his tackle on Cadan Murley (Harlequins) in the 39th minute of the match on May 6.

“In a hearing that lasted almost five hours, the panel was shown numerous angles of the tackle, many of which were not available to the referee and the match officials at the game. The panel also had the benefit of hearing from Chris Ashton, and from Murley, who were able to describe in detail their involvement in the incident.


“Ashton accepted committing an act of foul play that would have merited a yellow card. Having seen and heard all the evidence, including that of Murley, who gave a clear account as to the point of contact and the level of force involved in the tackle, the panel agreed with the submission that this was a yellow card offence.

“In arriving at that decision, the panel applied the head contact process, as it was updated by World Rugby on March 1, 2023. This was an incident where there was some degree of head contact and where Ashton accepted committing an act foul play when he made a tackle that was too high.


“As required by the head contact process, the panel then went on to consider what the degree of danger was in the tackle. Having assessed all the evidence before it, including that of Murley (who told the panel that the initial contact was to his right shoulder, following which the tackle rode up to his neck area, but that any force to his neck was minimal), the panel concluded that there was indirect contact to the head and that any force to the head/neck was low.

“Consequently, the panel concluded that there was not a high degree of danger and that the correct starting point under the head contact process was a yellow card. Therefore, the panel found the charge not proven. Ashton is thereby able to play with immediate effect.”


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