Northampton Saints, last season's runners-up in the Heineken Cup, will be without England wing Chris Ashton and back row man Phil Dowson for their back-to-back clashes with Castres Olympique in Pool 1.
Ashton has been handed a four week ban by an RFU Disciplinary Panel for pulling Leicester Tigers wing Alesana Tuilagi out of play by his hair in last weekend's East Midlands derby, while Dowson picked up a two week suspension for a dangerous tackle on Saracens player Andy Goode in an earlier game.
But the two players who were sent off by international referee Wayne Barnes after a mass brawl at Welford Road last weekend, Tigers wing Tuilagi and Saints' England flanker Tom Wood, will both be free to play in Round 3 this weekend.
Their sendings off for striking were deemed to be sufficient, while the Citing Commissioner Mike Rafter issued Level One citings - the equivalent of a yellow card - to Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers), Horacio Agulla (Leicester Tigers) and Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) for their part in the same incident.
Although Ashton denied the offence of pulling Tuilagi by his hair and dragging him from the field of play last weekend he was found guilty and suspended from 7 December to 3 January by an RFU Disciplinary Panel of His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett (chair), Jeremy Summers and Christopher Quinlan QC.
HH Judge Blackett, the RFU Disciplinary Officer said: "We accepted that this started by accident but it became clear that at some stage Chris Ashton knew what he was doing.
"If you pull somebody by the hair there is an element of denigration and this act was a catalyst for a mass brawl that resulted in two red cards and significantly affected the image of the game.
"Without any laid down guidance on sanction we have aligned the offence to that of spitting and reduced the entry level points to that of three, six and 10 weeks for low, mid-range and top end respectively. This was a mid-range offence but we have reduced the sanction by two weeks based on the player's good record and conduct at the hearing."
While Ashton will be free to play again on 4 January, Dowson can resume playing on 20 December. Both players were ordered to pay £500 in costs and have 48 hours in which to appeal the decision after receiving the judgement.
Having won eight straight games in last season's Heineken Cup, Saints have now lost three in a row - the 2011 final against Leinster, their opening Pool 1 match this season in Munster and their home clash in Round 2 against the Scarlets.
The directors of ERC voted unanimously at a Board meeting to postpone all decisions including the release of further instalments of ERC's distributable central revenues to the six shareholder countries until 19 February next when the Board will meet again to reconsider the issue.