Rugby-Tuilagi to miss final after ban for flurry of punches

Reuters

Thu, 19 May 05:04:00 2011

Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi will miss this month's Premiership final after receiving a five-week ban for launching a flurry of punches to the head of England international Chris Ashton in last Saturday's semi-final win over Northampton Saints.

Samoan-born Tuilagi, who has represented England's second string team the Saxons, pleaded guilty to the charge and had a 10-week ban for the "Top End" offence reduced by 50 percent to reflect his youth and inexperience, admission of guilt and genuine remorse, the Rugby Football Union said on its website.

"This was a Top End entry offence because there were three punches, the third of which was extremely forceful and caused significant injury," RFU disciplinary officer Jeff Blackett said.

"However, we also determined that there was some provocation from Chris Ashton, who pushed and struck him in the back with his knee.

"This sort of incident is very damaging to the image of the game and there is no place for this type of offending on the rugby pitch.

"Had it occurred in the high street, an offender would have been prosecuted in the criminal courts. Nevertheless, we are confident that Manu Tuilagi will learn a valuable lesson from this."

Leicester beat the Saints 11-3 in a combustible semi-final at the Tigers' Welford Road ground and face Saracens in English rugby's showpiece match at Twickenham on May 28.

Tuilagi, who turned 20 on Wednesday, can next play on June 23. The ban means Tuilagi will also miss the Churchill Cup international tournament featuring England Saxons.

Although Tuilagi will miss that event, England manager Martin Johnson is still expected to include him in a large training group due to gather at the end of June where he will still be able to make a late challenge for a place in England's 30-man squad for the World Cup in New Zealand.

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