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England prop Kyle Sinckler handed seven-week ban

Kyle Sinckler will miss England's autumn internationals against Argentina and Australia after being given a seven-week suspension for making contact with an opponent's eye.

The British & Irish Lions tighthead appeared at a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing on Tuesday night after being cited for making contact with the eye and/or eye area of Michael Paterson in Harlequins' defeat at Northampton last weekend.

"The panel heard evidence from the player as to his actions. They found that it was an intentional action, but that due to the absence of injury it merited a low end entry point," panel chairman Dan White said.

Sinckler protested his innocence when accused of gouging by Paterson, who drew the incident to the attention of referee Luke Pearce, but at the hearing he accepted the charge of making contact with the eye.

Sinckler insisted it was not a deliberate action, but apologised for the offence.

"I accept the outcome of the hearing and wanted to go on record to say I am sorry that I have let my teammates down, but more importantly I feel terrible that anyone would think I would deliberately gouge an opponent," Sinckler said.

"That was never my intention -- it was a genuine mistake and an act of recklessness on my part. I will spend the next seven weeks working hard on my fitness and rugby to ensure that when I am able to get back on the field I am fit and ready to do so and make the best possible contribution to Quins."

Sinckler, 24, and England's second choice tighthead -- is free to play from Nov. 21, but, having spent seven weeks on the sidelines, he is highly unlikely to feature in the final autumn international against Samoa four days later.

"The player has not got a clear record because of a suspension in 2015 and so the panel could not give full mitigation," White said. "The player will therefore be suspended for seven weeks and is free to play again on the 21 November 2017."

The entry point sanction for the offence is 12 weeks, meaning five weeks were shaved off by the panel.

Once several replays had been examined by Pearce, Sinckler was penalised only for removing Paterson's scrum cap and was later robustly defended by his director of rugby John Kingston.

However, when close-up footage was later released, the front row's hand could be clearly seen making contact with Paterson's eye, resulting in the ban.

If available, he would have been involved in the autumn series as understudy to Dan Cole, making an impact off the bench though his carrying and speed, and now Eddie Jones must examine new options in the position.

All 11 of his caps have been won as a replacement, three of them during last summer's Lions tour to New Zealand when he was picked ahead of Cole, although his tour was marred by his arrest by Auckland police for a minor offence after the series decider.

Test recognition from the Lions was a significant breakthrough, but he was omitted from England's squad for their most recent training camp in Oxford and is battling with Will Collier for tighthead recognition at Harlequins.

Although this is his first ban, Sinckler's combustible temperament had already established his reputation as a fiery competitor.

After the verdict, Kingston said in a statement released by Harlequins that "there is no doubt in my mind that this incident was accidental", adding that "as a club we fully accept the importance of player welfare and believe wholeheartedly there is no place for any player's hand ever to be around the eye area of an opponent".

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