English Rugby
Clark handed 32-week ban
ESPNscrum Staff
March 29, 2012
Northampton's Calum Clark, Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks, Aviva Premiership, Franklin's Gardens, Northampton, England, February 18, 2012
Northampton's Calum Clark has paid a high price for his assault on Leicester's Rob Hawkins © Getty Images

Northampton's Calum Clark has been suspended for 32 weeks after being found guilty of "an act contrary to good sportsmanship" during his side's Anglo-Welsh Cup Final defeat to Leicester Tigers.

Clark pleaded guilty to hyperextending the right arm of the Tigers' Rob Hawkins during the clash at Sixways on March 18. It left Hawkins with a broken elbow and requiring surgery, sidelining him for the rest of this season. The suspension, among the longest handed out to a senior English player during rugby union's 16-and-a-half-year professional era, will run from March 22 to November 1.

In a statement the RFU said: "Calum Clark of Northampton Saints was this evening suspended for 32 weeks for an act contrary to good sportsmanship - Law 10(4) (M). "Clark pleaded guilty to hyperextending the right arm of Leicester Tigers' Rob Hawkins during the LV= Cup final at Sixways on March 18.

"The suspension will run from March 22 to the November 1. He is free to play again on November 2 2012. Clark is ordered to pay hearing costs of £500. The full judgement will be made available tomorrow. The player has the right to appeal."

Northampton say they are "bound to consider the merits of an appeal" having already handed the player an indefinite suspension following an internal investigation in what was a clear pre-emptive strike prior to tonight's hearing.

In a statement, Saints said: "The disciplinary panel found that Calum Clark had not intended to injure Rob Hawkins in the course of moving his arm. Accordingly, the unfortunate injury suffered by Rob Hawkins was unintentional.

"In the light of that finding of the disciplinary panel, Northampton Saints is bound to express concern and disappointment at the imposition of such a long suspension, even after significant mitigation in recognition in what was accepted to be Calum Clark's genuine remorse.

"Accordingly, the club is bound to consider the merits of an appeal. No further comment will be made at this time."

Clark is the second Northampton forward to receive a lengthy ban this week after club skipper and England hooker Dylan Hartley landed an eight-week suspension for biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris' finger during a Six Nations game on March 17.

Hartley will be available for England's three-Test summer tour to South Africa and the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham on May 26, should play-off contenders Saints get there. But Clark faces a far longer period of time in which to contemplate his actions that left an opposition player seriously injured.

A former England U20 skipper who joined Northampton from Leeds Carnegie, Clark is viewed among a promising array of young back-row talent currently available to newly-appointed England head coach Stuart Lancaster. But an RFU panel, chaired by the organisation's disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett, left Clark knowing in no uncertain terms how his behaviour in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final has been viewed.

And Northampton, fourth in the Premiership ahead of Saturday's trip to Bath, now find themselves without two key players for the regular league season climax that also sees them host Leicester, visit Exeter and then entertain Worcester.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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