Aviva Premiership
Tuilagi set to learn his fate
ESPNscrum Staff
May 18, 2011
A bloodied Chris Ashton is held back by Dylan Hartley after being punched by Manu Tuilagi, Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints, Aviva Premiership Play-Off Semi-Final, Welford Road, Leicester, England, May 14, 2011
Leicester's Manu Tuilagi has been cited for punching Northampton's Chris Ashton © Getty Images

Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi will face a disciplinary hearing this evening after being cited for punching Northampton wing Chris Ashton during Saturday's Aviva Premiership semi-final, the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

Tuilagi, who turns 20 today, will face an RFU panel in London after being reported by independent citing officer Alan Mansell for punching Ashton during the first-half of Leicester's 11-3 victory at Welford Road.

The youngster, one of England's brightest midfield candidates and a Rugby World Cup squad contender, will miss the Aviva Premiership final against Saracens at Twickenham on May 28 if he is banned and also possibly England Saxons' Churchill Cup campaign.

Both Tuilagi and Ashton were yellow-carded by referee Wayne Barnes following the 32nd-minute incident, but assistant referee Robin Goodliffe has been criticised for failing to advise that Tuilagi should have been shown a straight red.

Television replays showed that Ashton's only part in the episode was to push Tuilagi after he had been taken out off the ball by the Leicester player. Tuilagi then responded by throwing three punches at Ashton, the latter a crunching right hook that left the Saints star requiring stitches to a cut near his left eye.

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill expects a ban to follow. "He reacted poorly, he threw a punch and you can't do that," he said. "The rules say if you strike or punch a player you get a red card. I expect he will get a sanction."

Tuilagi's actions were witnessed from the Welford Road stands by England manager Martin Johnson, forwards coach John Wells and scrummaging specialist Graham Rowntree, with any ban that affects his Churchill Cup hopes also likely to impact on his England prospects. Tuilagi starred for the Saxons earlier this season, scoring a try when they crushed Italy 'A' 45-17 in Worcester.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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