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Hefty ban is given to Worcester's red-carded Chris Ashton with lesser suspensions for Bath duo Tom Dunn and Will Muir

By Liam Heagney

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Former England international Chris Ashton will miss the majority of the remaining 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership season after he copped a lengthy ban following his red card while playing for Worcester in last weekend’s defeat to Northampton. Bath pair Tom Dunn and Will Muir will also be absent for the next while after they were banned following a respective red card and a citing versus London Irish. 

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Ashton, the 34-year-old capped 44 times by England, was making his fourth appearance for Worcester since joining them from Harlequins in January when he was shown the red card by referee Andrew Jackson in the 49th minute of the match versus Saints at Sixways.

The winger contested the charge but it was upheld by the independent disciplinary panel comprising Gareth Graham (chair) with Sean Enright and Tony Wheat. They gave Ashton a six-week suspension, leaving him free to play again for Worcester on June 1.

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Ex-Wales and Lions scrum-half Mike Philips guests on RugbyPass Offload with Ryan Wilson to review how the Six Nations finished
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Ex-Wales and Lions scrum-half Mike Philips guests on RugbyPass Offload with Ryan Wilson to review how the Six Nations finished

An independent panel statement read: “The player accepted that he had committed an act of foul play but challenged the red card on the basis that he had not made direct contact to the head of his opponent. Any player choosing to contest a red card must prove on the balance of probabilities that the referee’s decision to award a red card was wrong.

“The panel took account of all the evidence with which it had been provided and could not be satisfied that the referee’s decision had been wrong. The referee had concluded that the player had committed an act of dangerous play in a ruck or maul that passed the red card threshold, which involved contact to the head/neck area. Such an offence carries with it a minimum mid-range entry point of six weeks.

“The player does not have a good disciplinary record and the panel increased the sanction by one week to take account of this aggravating factor. The player had not accepted the charge. There was some limited mitigation present, including the positive way in which the player engaged with the hearing. 

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“The panel concluded that a reduction to the entry point of one week on account of the mitigation that was present was proportionate in all the circumstances of the case. The player is therefore suspended for a period of six weeks.”

This Worcester ban for Ashton is a week longer than the combined suspensions for current England hooker Dunn, who was shown a red card by referee Craig Maxwell-Keys in the 61st minute of Bath’s loss at London Irish for striking with the elbow, and Muir, who was cited by independent citing commissioner Duncan Bell for tackling Rob Simmons.

Dunn and Muir accepted the charges against them and were given respective three and two-week suspensions by the independent disciplinary panel comprising Enright (chair) with Graham and Mitch Read. Each player’s free to play date is dependent on Bath confirmed fixture list.

A statement on the Dunn case read: “The panel had the benefit of written submissions from the player and the RFU in advance of the hearing. Considered alongside the video footage, the panel assessed the entry point as mid-range. 

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“This was not an intentional strike with the elbow and there had been a limited effect on the London Irish player who had been able to continue the game. The player has one matter on his disciplinary record from 2013 but the panel did not consider that this should prevent him from receiving the full mitigation available in light of his early guilty plea, his apology and the manner in which he engaged with the hearing process.

“He is suspended for three weeks which will include three meaningful fixtures subject to Bath’s progress in the EPCR Challenge Cup.”

The statement concerning the Muir hearing stated: “The panel accepted that this was a clumsy, reckless action by the player but one which resulted in the London Irish player landing in a dangerous position. For that reason, the player accepted the citing and agreed that it merited a red card. 

“London Irish confirmed that their player experienced soreness but that he was able to play on and train and normal. The panel considered this to be at the low end of entry points which carries a four-week starting point. 

“There are no aggravating features and the player was entitled to the full mitigation on account of his acceptance of the charge, clear record and other mitigation factors. He is suspended for two weeks which will cover two meaningful fixtures and will be subject to Bath’s progress in the EPCR Challenge Cup.”

ASHTON’S MISSING WORCESTER MATCHES
April 10 v Bristol (friendly)
April 17 v Harlequins
April 24 v Sale
May 8 v Exeter
May 15 v Wasps
May 28/29/30 v Leicester
June 4/5/6 v Newcastle*
*To be included if there is any change to the friendly fixture v Bristol on April 10.

DUNN’S MISSING BATH MATCHES
April 2 v Zebre (Challenge Cup)
April 9/10/11 v TBC (European Challenge Cup quarter-final, if applicable)
April 18 v Leicester
April 25 v Wasps”
*To be included if Bath don’t make the European Challenge Cup quarter-final

MUIR’S MISSING BATH MATCHES
April 2 v Zebre (Challenge Cup)
April 9/10/11 v TBC (European Challenge Cup quarter-final, if applicable)
April 18 v Leicester*
*To be included if Bath don’t make the European Challenge Cup quarter-final

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Hefty ban is given to Worcester's red-carded Chris Ashton with lesser suspensions for Bath duo Tom Dunn and Will Muir

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