Ashton labelled 'rugby's Luis Suarez' for biting

LONDON • Chris Ashton was branded the Luis Suarez of rugby on Wednesday as rival players criticised the Saracens wing, who was banned for 13 weeks on Tuesday for biting Northampton Saints prop Alex Waller.

The reference to the Barcelona football forward, who has been banned for biting on three occasions, came from Drew Mitchell, the Australian wing whose Toulon side are in the same European Champions Cup group as Saracens.

Mitchell also declared that there were "no excuses" for biting on a rugby field, a theme that was picked up vigorously by Tom Wood, the Northampton captain and a former England team-mate of Ashton.

"I am surprised and somewhat shocked that anyone bites in the modern game. I am amazed that it has happened," Wood said.

"I've just never understood a bite in a game. I've never been on the receiving end. It's never even crossed my mind to do it.

"For there to be two allegations on the same player within a minute (although only one proven by the disciplinary panel) just seems a bit strange."

Wood was not entirely surprised that Ashton was the one to find himself in trouble given his recent record, but the overriding emotion at Northampton yesterday was one of frustration, given that Greg Garner, the referee, did not punish Ashton on the day.

Saracens won a brutal game 27-12 by taking full advantage when Waller was sent to the sin-bin for dump-tackling Jamie George, the hooker, after the incident involving Ashton.

"Alex got sin-binned," Wood said. "Maybe that was because his head had gone. He had been on the receiving end of a few and he had to dish some out, I don't know.

"It is frustrating that what was clearly a red card, a 13-week ban, wasn't policed on the day. There's a lack of consistency across the board."

Alan Dickens, the Northampton assistant coach, said the lack of action from the match officials had led his children to ask whether biting was condoned in rugby.

"The RFU and the Premiership push the values of the game. For us not to consider looking at that (incident), I don't understand," he said.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2016, with the headline 'Ashton labelled 'rugby's Luis Suarez' for biting'. Print Edition | Subscribe