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George Earle handed eight week eye-gouging ban

The 29-year-old South African had pleaded not guilty. Credit: PA

Cardiff Blues lock George Earle has been banned for eight weeks following his sending-off in their European Challenge Cup defeat against Bath.

Earle was sent off by referee Alexandre Ruiz for eye gouging in a maul in the second half of their 38-3 loss last week.

The 29-year-old South African pleaded not guilty, but an independent disciplinary panel ruled otherwise, although it deemed his offence was at the low end of World Rugby's sanctions.

The panel also took into account Earle's clean disciplinary record and the fact he apologised to Tom Ellis, the Bath player involved, after the match.

The ban will begin with Cardiff's Guinness PRO12 home clash with Newport Gwent Dragons on Boxing Day.

Earle, who can appeal the decision, will be free to play on February 13.

Gatland 'delighted' with Lions coaching staff

(L to r) Steve Borthwick, Warren Gatland, Rob Howley and Andy Farrell. Credit: PA

Warren Gatland says he is "absolutely delighted" with the quality of his British and Irish Lions coaching team for next summer's tour to New Zealand.

As had been expected, England forwards coach Steve Borthwick, Ireland defence specialist Andy Farrell and current Wales interim head coach Rob Howley will join Lions chief Gatland for the 10-match tour.

Confirmation of the trio came at a press conference in Dublin, with Farrell and Howley returning for another Lions expedition after working with New Zealander Gatland during the successful 2013 Australia tour.

Ex-England skipper and current Red Rose forwards coach Borthwick is a Lions newcomer, but he has made a considerable impression during England's spectacular revival under Eddie Jones.

Gatland said: "Over the next couple of months we want to add some specialist people to the coaching set-up.

"I'm absolutely delighted with the quality we've got here at the moment. There's no rush specifically at the moment. We're just making sure we speak to the right people."


Northampton withdraw George North from action

Northampton wing George North has suffered a series of concussions. Credit: PA

George North will not play for Northampton again until he has been assessed by an independent expert in head injuries.

The Welsh wing, who has suffered a series of concussions, was cleared by Saints medics to continue playing during Saturday's Aviva Premiership clash with Leicester despite replays suggesting he had been knocked out following a tackle from Adam Thompstone.

Questions have been raised about whether the player's welfare was best served by his return to action but Northampton insist they were fully in compliance with World Rugby's head injury assessment protocols.

The club does admit, however, that the footage available to them at the time was limited and have taken the precautionary steps of withdrawing North from action pending the specialist's verdict.

Jones: England will record 'best win' over Australia

Eddie Jones has started the mind games already. Credit: PA

Eddie Jones predicts the best win of his unblemished England tenure will de delivered against Australia as he began landing early verbal blows ahead of Saturday's showdown at Twickenham.

As the dust was still settling on a stirring 27-14 victory over Argentina in which Elliot Daly was sent off in the fifth minute, Jones immediately turned his attention to staging a fourth successive victory over the Wallabies.

England's head coach highlighted their frailty at the scrum and is to request a meeting with referee Jaco Peyper to ensure it is officiated properly, and also resumed hostilities with the Australian media, who he conclusively outmanoeuvred during the 3-0 series whitewash in June.

Jones said:

We are looking forward to the game next weekend. The best win is to come - Australia will be the best win. All we want to do is beat Australia next week, that's all we want to do. And then beat them next year and the year after that.

It's going to be a bit of fun because the Australian media last June was very disrespectful to us. I'm sure they are going to be at it again, so we've got to be prepared for that. I'm also very keen to have a chat to the referee about the Australian scrummaging. They have got some issues with the way that they scrum so we need to have a meeting with the referee.

We will invite the Australian coaching staff to come along and will submit an agenda and make sure that everything is above board. They were penalised four times in a row against France so they have got some technical issues. I am not going to sort them out for them.

– England head coach Eddie Jones


Kruis returns to England pack for Argentina clash

Kruis is back in the England side. Credit: PA

England have named George Kruis and Tom Wood in their pack for Saturday's penultimate autumn international against Argentina at Twickenham.

Kruis is restored to the second row after completing his recovery from ankle surgery and replaces Joe Launchbury, who is serving a two-match ban for kicking an opponent in last weekend's 58-15 victory over Fiji.

Wood ousts Teimana Harrison at openside flanker, a role he performed in the series opener against South Africa with his Northampton team-mate dropping to the bench in place of Nathan Hughes.

In total there are four changes to starting XV that routed Fiji, with Mike Brown preferred to Alex Goode at full-back and Jonny May displacing Semesa Rokoduguni on the right wing.

"Selection was interesting this week, but it shows how competitive and how much depth we are developing," head coach Eddie Jones said.

Launchbury banned for kicking Fiji's Tikoirotuma

Launchbury will miss the remaining two matches of England's autumn series. Credit: Reuters

Joe Launchbury has been ruled out of the remaining two matches of England's autumn series after being found guilty of kicking Fiji's Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

Launchbury will miss the clashes with Argentina and Australia after his boot connected with the head of the Fijian outside centre in the 42nd minute of a record 58-15 victory at Twickenham.

The act was deemed reckless rather than deliberate and the low end sanction for the offence of a four-week ban was reduced to two weeks due to Launchbury's admission of guilt, his previous clean disciplinary record and good conduct at the hearing.

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