Marler to miss two Six Nations games after six-week ban

Joe Marler will be unavailable for England's opening two Six Nations encounters after being handed a six-week suspension.

The prop was red-carded midway through the second half of Harlequins' 30-29 defeat at Sale Sharks on Saturday after striking TJ Ioane with his shoulder.

Marler appeared before an independent disciplinary panel on Tuesday and was issued with the punishment, meaning he cannot return to action until February 20.

England open their campaign against Italy in Rome on February 4 before hosting Wales at Twickenham six days later.

"The panel found that contact was made with the head of TJ Ioane and as a result the mandatory entry point is mid-range," said chairman of the disciplinary panel Philip Evans.

"The panel considered that the player's previous record was such that it required an additional period of suspension of one week, however because of his plea, his conduct since the incident took place and other personal mitigation, the panel allowed some reduction."

Iaone, meanwhile, was found guilty of striking Marler with his arm five minutes before the sending-off incident, and has been banned for two weeks.

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