Northampton opt not to appeal against Chris Ashton ban

Northampton Saints have decided not to appeal against the four-week ban handed to England winger Chris Ashton.

Ashton was punished for pulling Leicester's Alesana Tuilagi off the pitch by his hair in last weekend's Premiership defeat at Welford Road.

"The management still believes the sanction was harsh, and imposed because of what happened afterwards rather than the offence itself," the club stated.

"But the management believes it best a line is drawn under the incident."

Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder was frustrated with the Rugby Football Union's decision.

"It's pretty disappointing when your players get suspended," Mallinder told BBC Look East.

"It's not ideal. He didn't mean to do it. But he did grab his hair, without doubt. He is a big man. He needs to be stopped and he got away. Chris managed to stop him, probably not by legal means.

"But I think for Chris to get four weeks is harsh. He's devastated. He just wants to play rugby and he's not going to be able to."

The RFU deemed the offence to be "an act contrary to good sportsmanship" and, as a result, the England international will miss Saints' back-to-back Heineken Cup fixtures against Castres and the Premiership games against Bath and Newcastle.

The incident led to a much-publicised pitch-side brawl, but Mallinder defended the melee.

"You don't want fighting," he said. "But it's a physical game and there's a real fine balance with the emotion and aggression, particularly Leicester against Northampton.

"Sometimes it can overflow a bit and it needs a referee who can calm things down. We see worse in training almost every week."