Saturday 20 October 2018

'What a joke' - Nathan Hughes tweeted during hearing and then RFU panel mysteriously failed to reach decision over punch

Nathan Hughes will miss the game due to suspension
Nathan Hughes will miss the game due to suspension

Gavin Mairs

Nathan Hughes' mysteriously aborted disciplinary hearing took a fresh twist when it emerged that the England number eight tweeted "What a joke" while his case was being heard.

Hughes must wait up to a week to learn out if he can play any part in the autumn series after a three-man panel in Coventry aborted its investigation in peculiar circumstances.

It was decided a delay was necessary "in order to deal with an issue that arose during the evening". When asked for clarification on the issue in question, the Rugby Football Union declined to comment

Hughes is unable to play until a verdict is reached, almost certainly ruling him of Friday's Champions Cup clash with Leinster as it is unlikely the panel can reconvene before the trip to Dublin.

The hearing lasted over four hours and as it approached the midway stage the 27-year-old sent out the tweet which has now been deleted

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"The independent panel appointed to deal with this case will reconvene within seven days in order to deal with an issue that arose during the evening," panel chair Gareth Graham said.

"No judgment will be issued by the panel in this period and the panel direct that the player, Wasps Rugby and the RFU are to make no further comment until the case has concluded.

"The player remains suspended until the conclusion of the matter."

Hughes was cited for punching Lewis Ludlow in the head while being pinned to the floor by the Gloucester flanker in the final minute of Wasps' 35-21 defeat at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday.

It had been speculated that the Fiji-born 27-year-old would face a ban of six weeks if found guilty as blows to the head are automatically considered to be a mid-range offence in the table of sanctions.

A suspension of that length would rule him out of the November Tests against South Africa, New Zealand and Japan, but make him available for the climax of the series against Australia.

His absence would leave England reliant on Billy Vunipola as their only recognised number eight after Exeter's Sam Simmonds was ruled out for at least six months by a knee injury.

- Ludlow has been given a four-week ban for a separate incident in the match for stamping/trampling on Wasps' Elliot Daly.

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