Kyle Sinckler will miss England’s autumn internationals against Argentina and Australia after being given a seven-week suspension for making contact with an opponent’s eye.
The British and Irish Lions tighthead appeared at a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing on Tuesday night after being cited for making contact with the eye and/or eye area of Michael Paterson in Harlequins’ defeat at Northampton last weekend.
“The panel heard evidence from the player as to his actions. They found that it was an intentional action, but that due to the absence of injury it merited a low end entry point,” panel chairman Dan White said.
Sinckler protested his innocence when accused of gouging by Paterson, who drew the incident to the attention of referee Luke Pearce, but at the hearing he accepted the charge of making contact with the eye.
The 24-year-old — England’s second choice tighthead — is free to play from Nov. 21, but, having spent seven weeks on the sidelines, he is highly unlikely to feature in the final autumn international against Samoa four days later.
“The player has not got a clear record because of a suspension in 2015 and so the panel could not give full mitigation,” White said. “The player will therefore be suspended for seven weeks and is free to play again on the 21 November 2017.”
The entry point sanction for the offence is 12 weeks, meaning five weeks were shaved off by the panel.
Once several replays had been examined by Pearce, Sinckler was penalised only for removing Paterson’s scrum cap and was later robustly defended by his director of rugby John Kingston.
Kyle Sinckler also played for the British & Irish Lions this summer. Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images
However, when close-up footage was later released, the front row’s hand could be clearly seen making contact with Paterson’s eye, resulting in the ban.
If available would have been involved in the autumn series as understudy to Dan Cole, making an impact off the bench though his carrying and speed, and now Eddie Jones must examine new options in the position.
All 11 of his caps have been won as a replacement, three of them during last summer’s Lions tour to New Zealand when he was picked ahead of Cole, although his tour was marred by his arrest by Auckland police for a minor offence after the series decider.
Test recognition from the Lions was a significant breakthrough, but he was omitted from England’s squad for their most recent training camp in Oxford and is battling with Will Collier for tighthead recognition at Harlequins.
Although this is his first ban, Sinckler’s combustible temperament had already established his reputation as a fiery competitor.
“While there’s a perception of him being very physical and competitive and a combative individual, his disciplinary record is extremely good and that’s a fact,” Kingston said on Tuesday, before the hearing.
“Here’s a wonderfully talented player who has suddenly been propelled right to the top of everything, so suddenly the expectation is right up here. So if he’s not playing like a world class Lions player, people will ask questions.
“I would have bet that despite being left out of the Oxford squad, he would have been involved in the autumn series.
“He’s played all right this season. He’s probably put his hand up quite quickly, coming back mentally, to get straight into it.
“The end of the Lions tour was well documented and those things probably prey on your mind a little bit.
“He’s a young man who is extremely well intended. He keeps saying to me that he wants to concentrate on his rugby.
“But he’s having to realise that with the publicity that comes with him, everyone wants to talk about that. He wants to understand.
“I have no doubt that he will have some fantastic times ahead in his career, but it’s about learning the hard way when you have disappointment.”
After the verdict, Kingston said in a statement released by Harlequins that “there is no doubt in my mind that this incident was accidental”, adding that “as a club we fully accept the importance of player welfare and believe wholeheartedly there is no place for any player’s hand ever to be around the eye area of an opponent”.
Sinckler insisted it was not a deliberate action, but apologised for the offence.
“I accept the outcome of the hearing and wanted to go on record to say I am sorry that I have let my teammates down, but more importantly I feel terrible that anyone would think I would deliberately gouge an opponent,” Sinckler said.
“That was never my intention — it was a genuine mistake and an act of recklessness on my part.
“I will spend the next seven weeks working hard on my fitness and rugby to ensure that when I am able to get back on the field I am fit and ready to do so and make the best possible contribution to Quins.”
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