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England prop Marler given two-week ban for kicking

Marler has been given a two-week ban. Credit: PA

Harlequins prop Joe Marler has received a two-week ban after being cited for kicking Grenoble hooker Arnaud Heguy during last Friday's European Challenge Cup semi-final.

England international Marler, who was making his comeback appearance following a two-week suspension imposed for his "Gypsy boy" slur against Wales' Samson Lee in last month's RBS 6 Nations Championship game at Twickenham, is sidelined until May 9.

Challenge Cup organisers European Professional Club Rugby said a three-man disciplinary committee heard evidence from Marler during a hearing in London on Wednesday.

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Mike Brown confident of becoming world's best full back

Mike Brown believes he is yet to hit his peak and can still number among the game's premier full-backs at World Cup 2019.

Mike Brown is setting his sights high. Credit: Reuters

The 30-year-old full-back will aim to drive Harlequins into a second European Challenge Cup final in five years on Friday night, when Conor O'Shea's men face Grenoble at the Stoop.

Quins boss O'Shea will leave Twickenham for Italy's head coaching post this summer, with his charges keen to cap the rugby director's west London tenure with European silverware.

Brown faces continued pressure from Saracens' Alex Goode for his England shirt, but still reckons he can continue to thrive in the Test arena - right up to the next World Cup in Japan.

Brown told Press Association Sport:

The competition's in my head. If I keep pushing myself, I believe I can be one of the best players in the world in my position. I believe that, and you have to have that confidence and belief if you want to play and thrive at the top level.

I work hard every day on the training field, hard on what Eddie (Jones, England head coach) wants me to do and what the Quins coaches want me to do. I do feel over the next four years I've got so much more to give and learn, and to progress.

You've got to keep believing you can get better and I do honestly believe that. I've only realistically played international rugby consistently for four years, and only under three coaches. Eddie's come in now, it's a new perspective.

The guy's been around for so many years and has worked with so many great players it's exciting to see what we can continue to learn from him. It's exciting to think I've got so much more to come before I hit my peak.

– England full back Mike Brown

Itoje and Kruis pen new long-term deals at Saracens

Maro Itoje and George Kruis have signed new deals. Credit: PA

England locks Maro Itoje and George Kruis have both signed new long-term deals with Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens.

The European Champions Cup semi-finalists announced that 21-year-old Itoje and Kruis, 26, will remain at Allianz Park until at least 2019.

The second-row pairing proved an integral part of England's title-winning RBS 6 Nations team this season, when a first Grand Slam since 2003 was also achieved.

Itoje and Kruis both progressed through the club's academy system, and they follow fellow internationals like Billy and Mako Vunipola, Duncan Taylor and Jamie George in signing new Saracens deals.

Joubert named among referees for Rio sevens

Joubert features on a 12-strong panel of referees for the men's tournament. Credit: PA

South African Craig Joubert is among the referees chosen by World Rugby to officiate at this summer's Rio Olympics.

Joubert features on a 12-strong panel of referees for the men's tournament, which also includes Scotsman Mike Adamson.

The women's competition group of officials, meanwhile, features England's Sara Cox and Scottish official Alex Pratt.

Rugby union, in its sevens format, will return to the Olympics following a 92-year absence.

Joubert, who is a highly-experienced sevens referee, controlled the 15-a-side 2011 World Cup final in New Zealand, but at last autumn's England-hosted tournament he made a controversial late decision during the Scotland versus Australia quarter-final that World Rugby later announced had been incorrect.

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Chris Ashton reveals method of dealing with Grand Slam

Chris Ashton has revealed the only way he could come to terms with England's Grand Slam triumph was by convincing himself he would have been overlooked by Eddie Jones.

Chris Ashton found it tough being out of the fold through suspension. Credit: Reuters

Ashton was ruled out of the entire RBS 6 Nations after receiving a 10-week ban for making contact with the eye area of Ulster centre Luke Marshall in January and his Saracens comeback finally came against Bath one week ago.

The suspension meant he was forced to watch England's march to the title as a peripheral figure for club and country, all the while knowing he had been pushing hard for a place in the starting XV after falling out of favour under the previous regime.

Mixed emotions flooded through the 29-year-old wing, who starts Saturday's Champions Cup quarter-final against Northampton, as the 13-year wait for a Grand Slam came to an end in Paris.

Ashton said:

I told myself it wouldn't have been me. That was the way I had to look at it - I had to hope I wouldn't have got picked. I approached it as though I probably would have gone home anyway and not played. That kind of helped me. I don't think it mattered whether I actually believed that or not, it's what I taught myself to help me sit and watch England win.

– Chris Ashton

Marler suspended and fined for 'gypsy boy' slur

Marler will miss two matches. Credit: PA

England prop Joe Marler has been suspended for two matches and fined £20,000 - to be paid to charity - following a misconduct hearing over his "gypsy boy" slur against Wales forward Samson Lee, World Rugby has announced.

The 25-year-old made the remark during England's 25-21 Six Nations victory at Twickenham last month.

World Rugby ordered that the case be heard by an independent judicial committee due to its misgivings over the original investigation conducted by Six Nations organisers, who failed to punish Marler despite his admission of guilt.

Marler apologised to Lee at half-time during the match and subsequently issued an apology.

The committee said Marler "had used unsporting and discriminatory language towards Lee" and that he had "brought the game into disrepute".

RFU investigates after supporter allegedly confronts referee at Bath

Bath winger Anthony Watson reacts to his red card. Credit: PA

The Rugby Football Union has launched an investigation after a supporter allegedly gained access to the officials' dressing room and confronted referee Greg Garner following Bath's Premiership game against Saracens on Friday.

Garner had earlier sent off Bath's England back Anthony Watson for a dangerous tackle on Saracens' Alex Goode as the west country club crashed to a 30-10 home defeat.

It is understood that a male fan made his way into Garner's room, which is situated close to the players' changing rooms at the Recreation Ground.

"I can confirm that we are investigating," an RFU spokesperson told Press Association Sport.

Garner consulted TV replays before brandishing a red card, but Watson was furious as he left the pitch, reacting in disbelief at the official's decision and appearing to have words with Saracens wing Chris Ashton, who had pushed him following his challenge on Goode.

Speaking after the game, Bath head coach Mike Ford said: "By the letter of the law, it is a sending off, isn't it? He (Watson) got underneath Alex, and Alex landed awkwardly.

"You get underneath the guy jumping, take his legs away and he lands awkwardly like he did, it's a red.

"Anthony is gutted. He was going for the ball, Ashton checked his run, and then all of a sudden he is underneath the player. It was an accident.

"We will have a look at it. We will fight his corner."

Watson also found an ally in Saracens rugby director Mark McCall, who added: "The letter of the law says it is possibly a red card, but I feel sorry for Anthony because it was not intentional."

In a statement, Bath said: "Bath Rugby are aware of an incident involving the match officials which took place after the game against Saracens last night.

"In conjunction with the RFU and Premiership Rugby, the club is currently investigating the incident and will ensure appropriate action is taken."

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