England star Chris Ashton to answer gouging charge

Saracens wing Chris Ashton’s hopes of an England recall in the opening exchanges of this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship are in the balance.

Prolific try-scorer Ashton, who won the last of his 39 England caps in New Zealand more than 18 months ago, has been cited for allegedly making contact with the “eye(s) and/or eye area” of Ulster centre Luke Marshall during Saturday’s European Champions Cup match at Allianz Park.

Ashton, if found guilty of the offence, could face a ban of around 12 weeks or more, and if that happens, he would miss the Six Nations tournament.

Ashton has been widely backed to make the starting line-up for new coach Eddie Jones’ first game in charge, but his immediate playing prospects now rest on a disciplinary hearing which will take place on Wednesday.

“EPCR has received a citing complaint against the Saracens wing, Chris Ashton (No 14), following the European Rugby Champions Cup Round 5 match against Ulster Rugby on Saturday, 16 January 2016,” a European Professional Club Rugby statement read.

“Ashton is alleged to have made contact with the eye(s) and/or eye area of the Ulster centre, Luke Marshall (No 13), in the 16th minute of the match in contravention of Law 10.4 (m).”

Clermont’s Viktor Kolelishvili also faces a potentially anxious wait after a bizarre incident in which he pushed referee Wayne Barnes during his side’s 21-13 defeat at Ospreys.

The Georgia flanker was lined up in defence around the fringes of a ruck when he shoved the English referee, who was stood in front of him keeping an eye on the breakdown. At the time the 26-year-old escaped with just a telling-off, but his case will be reviewed at a hearing tomorrow.

Glasgow’s Ryan Wilson has also been cited after being “alleged to have grabbed the testicles” of Northampton scrum-half Lee Dickson.

Under World Rugby’s laws, which cover “testicle grabbing or twisting or squeezing”, Wilson could also face a potentially lengthy ban at a hearing on Wednesday.

Wilson’s Glasgow team-mate Tim Swinson will have a hearing on the same day after he allegedly punched Northampton hooker Mikey Haywood in the 74th minute of their 19-15 defeat.

Meanwhile Ulster have confirmed the signing of Ireland and Connacht tight-head prop Rodney Ah You on a two year contract.

The 27-year-old, who can also operate on the other side of the scrum, will finish the current campaign with Connacht, before moving to Kingspan Stadium this summer in time for pre-season training.

Ah You, a product of Christchurch Boys’ High School, quickly progressed through the ranks at Canterbury and was capped at U19 and U20 level by New Zealand. He was a key player when the Baby Blacks lifted the 2007 IRB Junior World Championship in Belfast and again in 2008. He played for Canterbury in New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship, before joining Connacht in 2010.

He made his 100th appearance for the Province in the Champions Cup play-off against Gloucester last May.

Ah You qualified for Ireland through residency in October 2013 and made his international debut during the Argentinian tour in 2014. He was then subsequently capped in the November games against Georgia and South Africa.

“I’m really excited about the challenges that lie ahead with Ulster. They are a side with big ambitions and are capable of winning silverware in the very near future,” said Ah You.

“I feel, at 27, that my best years are ahead of me. I want to thank Connacht massively for all the support they have given to me and my family over the past five years.”


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