Monday 24 October 2016

Australia legend calls Chris Ashton 'the Luis Suarez of rugby' following biting incident

Published 21/09/2016 | 15:53

Ashton was accused of biting Waller in the first half of an incident-packed match
Ashton was accused of biting Waller in the first half of an incident-packed match

Chris Ashton has been compared to Luis Suarez by Australia's Drew Mitchell in the latest football analogy used to characterise the England wing who has received a 13-week ban for biting.

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Ashton has been sanctioned for an offence occurring in Saracens' victory over Northampton on Saturday and by the time he returns to play in late December he will have missed almost six months of 2016 as he served a 10-week suspension midway through last season.

Saracens have until 24 hours after receiving the written judgement of the hearing's decision - which is due on Thursday morning - to decide whether there are grounds for an appeal.

Former England centre Will Greenwood has questioned why Ashton is repeatedly caught in "daft situations", adding "he's Mario Balotelli - someone give him a T-shirt, 'Why Always Me?'".

Veteran Wallabies wing Mitchell, however, used Twitter to remark that Suarez is a more accurate comparison in reference to the Barcelona striker's history of biting opponents.

"Sorry @WillGreenwood, @ChrisAshton1 is not the Mario Balotelli of Rugby... He is the Luis Suarez! There are just NO excuses," said Mitchell's tweet, which was accompanied by a thumbs down emoticon.

Saracens will study the written judgement before considering whether to appeal against a verdict that will see their most prolific try scorer miss another large chunk of the season, plunging him further into the international wilderness.

There appeared to be significant provocation from Northampton's Alex Waller, the player he is alleged to have bitten on two separate occasions staggered over a minute, but the nature of the offence means there is little sympathy for Ashton outside Allianz Park.

The 29-year-old pleaded not guilty to both counts and while a hearing that lasted five and a half hours agreed over the second incident, they found the first worthy of punishment.

It is another sorry development for Ashton in a year that has been blighted by disciplinary issues, beginning in January when he was banned for 10 weeks for making contact with the eyes or eye area of Ulster's Luke Marshall.

In January he had been recalled by new England head coach Eddie Jones after spending 18 months in Test exile due to his defensive shortcomings, only to surrender his place in the squad when he was found to have raked his hands across Marshall's face.

Jones subsequently noted Ashton's push on and verbal abuse of Anthony Watson during an Aviva Premiership match against Bath in April, acts that darkened his view of a player he had previously described as "mad as a cut snake".

Watson was banned for two weeks for a separate offence during the same flashpoint, but the damage had already been done in Jones' eyes with the Australian declaring: "I didn't like what Ashton did. I thought it was unsportsmanlike, and that is something he needs to get out of his game."

Any goodwill over the draconian length of ban for what amounted to little more than a neck roll on Marshall was fading and despite a blistering strike rate of 10 tries in eight games since returning, he was overlooked for the summer tour to Australia.

His subsequent refusal to travel to South Africa with the Saxons in June diminished his Test prospects further and when Jones announced his provisional squad for the autumn schedule, Ashton's name was missing.

The final 45-man list for the matches against South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia will be confirmed on Friday week and Ashton was destined for exclusion once more, even before biting Waller.

The task now facing Saracens now is to lift Ashton's morale as he begins another extended spell of watching from the sidelines.

"There's nothing we can do but support our player. That's what we're doing," said director of rugby Mark McCall before the verdict was revealed.

Press Association

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