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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Haskell ban extended to four weeks



Otago Highlanders flanker James Haskell has had his three-week ban for punching Cheetahs player Justin Downey extended to four weeks because of a previous ban in England four years ago.

The England international was found guilty of striking Downey during the Highlanders come-from-behind 36-33 victory in Bloemfontein on April 28.

In his original ruling, Sanzar (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia rugby) judicial officer Mike Heron reduced the penalty to three weeks from a starting point of six weeks.

He said he had taken into account Haskell's guilty plea, remorse, and "his impressive record" of no previous citings in over 10 years of professional rugby.

However, it has since been revealed Haskell received a one-week suspension in 2008 for his involvement in a head-butt incident in England when playing for Wasps against Worcester.

"Because Haskell had a previous disciplinary matter, I find I am not able to give him the maximum discount as previously allowed," Heron said in issuing his revised ruling.

"The comments regarding the impressive record are modified to that extent."

Haskell said he overlooked the earlier suspension because of the unusual nature of the incident and accepted the decision to extend his ban to four weeks.

He was due to return to the Highlanders for their match against the Auckland Blues on May 26 but will not now be available until they play the Canterbury Crusaders on June 1.

In his original report Heron found Haskell punched Downey twice and the Cheetahs player required stitches for a gash on his eyebrow.

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