Kyle Sinckler will play no part in England’s autumn Test campaign after being found guilty of deliberate eye-gouging and banned for seven weeks.
The Harlequins prop appeared at a disciplinary hearing in Bristol on Tuesday night and pleaded guilty to a charge of ‘making contact with the eye/eye area’ of Northampton lock Michael Paterson, during an Aviva Premiership match at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.
The offence was deemed to be at the ‘lower end’ of the scale, but because Paterson suffered no injury as a result, the recommended minimum 12-week suspension was reduced by five weeks.
Kyle Sinckler pleaded guilty to a charge of ‘making contact with the eye/eye area’
Kyle added: ‘I accept the outcome of the hearing and wanted to go on record to say I am sorry that I have let my team mates down, but more importantly I feel terrible that anyone would think I would deliberately gouge an opponent. 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.’
Harlequins Director of Rugby John Kingston commented: ‘Despite Kyle’s unfair public reputation he actually has a very good on-field disciplinary record.
‘There is no doubt in my mind that this incident was accidental, but both myself, and as a club we fully accept the importance of player welfare and believe wholeheartedly that there is no place for any players’ hand ever to be around the eye area of an opponent.
The allegation was made during Harlequins’ defeat by Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens
‘We therefore accept the sanction and will be working with the whole squad around improving our discipline over the coming matches.’
Sinckler is suspended until November 21. England face Argentina on November 11 and Australia seven days later. Theoretically, he could feature against Samoa on November 25, but there is no prospect of the 24-year-old being selected after such a long period out of action.
The punishment handed down appears lenient, because the three-man panel concluded that it was an intentional gouge. Last year, Chris Ashton was banned for 10 weeks for an offence that was clearly accidental.
Dan White, the chairman at the hearing, said: ‘The panel heard evidence from the player as to his actions. They found that it was an intentional action, but due to the absence of injury it merited a low-end entry point. The player has not got a clear record because of a suspension in 2015, so the panel could not give full mitigation.’
The Harlequins prop appeared at a disciplinary hearing in Bristol on Tuesday night
In the aftermath of Saturday’s match, Quins’ director of rugby, John Kingston, categorically dismissed any suggestion that his player had gouged Paterson, even though the incensed Saint lock told referee Luke Pearce that he was ‘100 per cent’ sure that his eye had been targeted.
Three days on, Kingston chose to present a character reference for Sinckler, in an attempt to alter what he clearly considers to be an unfair reputation.
‘While there’s a perception of Kyle being very physical and combative, his disciplinary record is extremely good and that’s a fact,’ he said.
‘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.’