Chris Ashton has joined Danny Cipriani in potentially jeopardising his England career while in the midst of inducing its revival.
Two days after Cipriani pleaded guilty to common assault and resisting arrest following a nightclub brawl, Ashton is facing a possible ban for punching Rory Kockott in Sale’s pre-season friendly victory over Castres on Friday night.
Both players were sent off after clashing in a fiery match in Saint Affrique and although the game was staged in France, normal Rugby Football Union procedures apply.
Referee Romain Poite’s report is expected to be delivered to the RFU by Monday and given that video footage shows Ashton throwing a left hook, the dual code international could be summoned before a disciplinary hearing next week.
The entry-point sanction for punching is two weeks, but this climbs to four if it is deemed the intended target was Kockott’s head with the top end opening with an eight-week ban.
Counting against him at any hearing would be the total of 23 weeks he missed in 2016 after being found guilty of biting and making contact with the eye area of an opponent.
Those suspensions influenced his decision to join Toulon for the 2017-18 season and contributed to him failing to win a cap under Eddie Jones.
Having set a new Top 14 try-scoring record in his first year, however, Ashton left the Cote d’Azur for Sale this summer in the hope of reigniting his England career while addressing some family issues.
The prospect of adding to his 39 caps this autumn rose with his selection in Jones’ pre-season squad that met two weeks ago but a significant ban could rule him out of the next camp, which is being held in Bristol towards the end of the month.
Jones has a pragmatic approach to dealing with disciplinary issues but that would be tested if Ashton were to miss the opening rounds of Sale’s season, which begins at Harlequins on September 1.
Cipriani is another player whose disciplinary lapses will be trying the patience of the England head coach.
The Gloucester playmaker faces an independent disciplinary hearing next week after being charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game by the RFU and could face a fine and/or ban if the complaint is upheld.
He was fined £2,000 by a Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to charges of common assault and resisting arrest following an incident that took place on his club’s pre-season tour to Jersey.
It comes two months after he had made his first England start in a decade – in the third Test against South Africa in June – and his international future is now in the hands of Jones.
Both Ashton and Cipriani are no stranger to the headlines and have yet to play a competitive match for their teams having arrived as marquee signings over the summer.