Benetton Treviso will be without international hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini for five of their six Heineken Cup matches after he was banned for 15 weeks for eye gouging at the Rugby World Cup.
Ghiraldini was caught on camera gouging Irish prop Cian Healy during the first-half of Italy's World Cup Pool C clash with Ireland in Dunedin last weekend. He pleaded guilty to the offence and has been banned up to and including 17 January, 2012.
That rules him out of all bar the final round of matches in Pool 5, when the Italian side host English champions Saracens. Benetton Treviso will also face Biarritz Olympique and the Ospreys in their Pool.
Having been cited for his actions in Dunedin, Ghiraldini appeared before a disciplinary panel in Auckland, where he acknowledged that he had made contact with the eye/eye area of the Irish prop. He insisted his actions had not been deliberate.
But the Independent Judicial Officer, Bruce Squire QC, determined the Italian's offence was a "top end" offence with an entry point of 24 weeks suspension. After he player's previously unblemished disciplinary record was taken into account, along with a "range of other mitigating factors", he was handed a 15 week ban.
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.