Ashton's biting ban puts England future in doubt
Chris Ashton's turbulent year took another grim twist as the England and Saracens wing was given a 13-week ban for biting, seemingly driving a fresh nail into the coffin of his international career.
Ashton was cited for two incidents involving Alex Waller that unfolded in the first half of Saturday's 27-12 English Premiership victory over Northampton Saints and, although the second charge was dismissed, the first was upheld.
The 29-year-old is free to play again on the December 19, but disciplinary lapses in 2016 have seen him miss almost six months of the year having already been banned in February for 10 weeks for making contact with the eye area of Ulster's Luke Marshall, a decision which cost him his England place.
He contested both counts of an offence that carries an entry-point sanction of 12 weeks, but, after five-and-a-half hours, the Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing held in London on Tuesday evening found him guilty for the earlier of the two infringements.
Meanwhile, Ireland will face New Zealand in the pool stage of next year's U-20 World Cup for the second year in a row. Nigel Carolan guided his side to an historic win over the Baby Blacks in Manchester earlier this year en route to their first final which they lost to the hosts England who have been drawn with Australia and Wales.
Although New Zealand will represent a stiff challenge, the presence of Scotland and italy in the pool offers both teams a route to the semi-finals at the tournament which will be held in the Georgian cities of Tbilisi and Kutaisi next June.