Harlequins forward Kyle Sinckler will miss England’s first two autumn internationals after being given a seven-week ban for gouging.
The 24-year-old prop was cited for making contact with Michael Paterson’s eye during on Saturday.
Sinckler will miss England’s matches against Argentina (11 November) and Australia (18 November) at Twickenham.
“It was a genuine mistake and an act of recklessness on my part,” he said.
Sinckler is free to play from 21 November, four days before England face Samoa.
He was previously given a one-week ban for a tackle on Northampton’s Samu Manoa in March 2015.
The minimum ban for contact with the eye is 12 weeks, but this was cut by five weeks for Sinckler due to his conduct during the hearing and the guilty plea.
“I accept the outcome of the hearing and wanted to go on record to say I am sorry that I have let my team-mates down,” Sinckler said.
“More importantly, I feel terrible that anyone would think I would deliberately gouge an opponent. That was never my intention.”
Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston said that the club would work with the whole squad to improve discipline.
“Despite Kyle’s unfair public reputation he actually has a very good on-field disciplinary record,” Kingston added.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this incident was accidental, but both myself, and as a club we fully accept the importance of player welfare and believe wholeheartedly that there is no place for any player’s hand ever to be around the eye area of an opponent.”
He will miss seven Harlequins matches, including their European Cup fixtures against La Rochelle and Wasps.
Sinckler made his England debut against South Africa in last year’s November internationals, and came off the bench to feature in all three Tests for the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand over the summer.
Given the severity of the offence and the various precedents, Sinckler is perhaps lucky to only be banned for seven weeks, but his clear remorse and guilty plea have served as mitigating factors.
Although Sinckler excelled for the Lions in the summer, he was overlooked by England head coach Eddie Jones for a recent training camp, and this is far from the response Jones would have wanted from the player.
While he is available for England’s final November international, it’s hard to see him featuring for his country during the autumn.