LONDON // The Northampton and Ireland flanker Neil Best has been given an 18-week ban after pleading guilty to a charge of eye-gouging, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has confirmed. Best was cited for making contact with the eye of the Wasps forward James Haskell in a Premiership match last month though said in yesterday's hearing that his actions had been "reckless" rather than deliberate. Best, in his first season at Northampton after moving from Ulster, cannot play again until Jan 28, ruling him out of Ireland's home Tests next month against Canada, New Zealand and Argentina and his club's Premiership, European Challenge Cup and EDF Energy Cup games.
The ban is one of the longest in recent seasons, though Best's Northampton teammate Dylan Hartley was given a six-month suspension for two counts of eye-gouging last year, also in a match against Wasps and with Haskell again one of the victims. *Reuters