Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery has been ruled out of the rest of the Six Nations after receiving a six-week ban here on Wednesday for kicking France wing Alexis Palisson last weekend.Flannery, who pleaded guilty, can resume playing on March 29.
But that means he is now in line to miss defending champions Ireland's match against England at Twickenham on February 27, the March 13 fixture at home to Wales and Ireland's tournament climax against Scotland in Dublin on March 20.
However, Flannery does have the right of appeal and a statement issued Wednesday by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) in response to his suspension said: "The IRFU and Ireland team management will wait to review the written judgement before considering any further possible action."
Munster hooker Flannery was cited for his 23rd minute kick at the legs of Palisson, who limped off with a dead leg soon afterwards, during Ireland's 33-10 loss to France in Paris on Saturday that ended the visitors' hopes of back-to-back grand slams.
Many observers thought Flannery lucky to stay on the Stade de France pitch after avoiding both a yellow and a red card from English referee Wayne Barnes, who simply awarded France a penalty after the front row's wild kick at Brive wing Palisson, who had picked up a loose ball.
And Flannery himself admitted at Wednesday's hearing he should have been sent-off.
However, Barnes consulted touch judge Stuart Terheege who advised his compatriot he thought the challenge was a "shoulder charge", hence the referee's decision to only punish Ireland with a penalty.
Flannery was though cited Monday by Scottish citing commissioner Peter Brown in a move that led to Wednesday's hearing.
An independent three-man disciplinary committee chaired by Roger Morris (Wales), who was assisted by England's Mike Hamlin and John Doubleday, found Flannery's offence had been reckless rather than deliberate and merited a mid-range sanction under International Rugby Board (IRB) regulation 17.
A Six Nations statement added: "The committee also took account of the guilty plea by the player, who acknowledged at the outset that his action warranted a red card, together with the player's remorse for the injury caused to Alexis Palisson, the France wing."
Ulster hooker Rory Best is in line to replace Flannery after recovering from neck surgery in time for the Six Nations.
Table-toppers France continue their Six Nations grand slam quest away to Wales at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on February 26.