Nathan Hughes' tweet lands him in hot water with RFU Disciplinary Committee

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Nathan Hughes' tweeting skills have got him in trouble

Wasps and England forward Nathan Hughes‘ disciplinary hearing will reconvene next Wednesday.

Hughes’ hearing on Wednesday of this week investigated his citing for punching during a Gallagher Premiership game against Gloucester last weekend.

But the issuing of any judgement was postponed when it emerged that the England number eight tweeted “What a joke” upon learning the verdict of his case.

Following initial confusion it since became clear that Hughes’ tweet, which was subsequently deleted, forced the hearing to be reconvened next week.

In a statement, the RFU said: “The independent disciplinary panel comprising Gareth Graham (chair) with Matthew Weaver and Martyn Wood will reconvene at 1830 on Wednesday 17 October 2018 to resume the case of Wasps’ Nathan Hughes, which was adjourned on Wednesday evening this week.

“Under RFU regulation 19.5.3, Hughes remains suspended until the conclusion of the matter.”

If Hughes is reprimanded for his Twitter comment, he is likely to face either additional sanction on the grounds of conduct or the withdrawal of any mitigation applied to any original ban issued for punching.

In an RFU statement issued on Wednesday, panel chairman Graham said: “The independent panel appointed to deal with this case will reconvene in not less than seven days in order to deal with an issue that arose during the evening.”

Hughes was cited for punching Lewis Ludlow in the head while being pinned to the floor by the Gloucester flanker in the final minute of Wasps’ 35-21 defeat at the Ricoh Arena.

It could have seen the 27-year-old banned for six weeks if found guilty, as blows to the head are automatically considered to be a mid-range offence.

A suspension of that length would rule him out of the November Tests against South Africa, New Zealand and Japan, but make him available for Australia on November 24.

His absence would leave England with Saracens’ Billy Vunipola as their only recognised number eight after Exeter forward Sam Simmonds was ruled out for at least six months by a knee injury.

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Northampton to face Challenge Cup test as Clermont come to the Gardens

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Dan Biggar of the Saints will be in action against Clermont in the Challenge Cup opening weekend

Northampton will face an immediate test of their European Challenge Cup ambitions on Saturday when French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne arrive at Franklin’s Gardens.

Not only are Clermont the current Top 14 leaders, they will head to Saints with a powerful line-up featuring the likes of centre Remi Lamerat, scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, prop Rabah Slimani and number eight Fritz Lee, with Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez among their replacements.

The competition favourites can take early charge of Pool One if they win on the road, but they will be wary of their last vist to Northampton nine months ago, which produced a 34-21 Champions Cup defeat.

Saints Rugby director Chris Boyd has made four changes, handing starts to Piers Francis, Tom Collins, James Haskell and Dom Barrow, while Dan Biggar and Dylan Hartley also feature.

Harlequins, three-time Challenge Cup winners, open up against French visitors Agen at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday, with Mike Brown, Marcus Smith and Joe Marler among their starters.

“We have a rich history in the Challenge Cup and we want to do well in the competition by starting strongly,” Quins head of Rugby Paul Gustard told quins.co.uk.

“This is also an opportunity for us to build on recent performances and move the team and the club forward.

“We took pride in our resilient performance against Saracens last week, and we have been pleased to see the improvements in our defence and scrum. Now, we want to see our attack become more threatening.”

Bristol, back in European competition following their return to the Gallagher Premiership this season, start against Ashton Gate visitors Zebre.

Head coach Pat Lam has made 12 changes from the side crushed 52-7 by Worcester five days ago, with only wing Alapati Leiua, plus centres Siale Piutau and Will Hurrell, remaining.

Full-back Tom Pincus and props Jake Woolmore and Jake Armstrong make first competitive starts as Bristol look to make home advantage count in a pool that also includes La Rochelle and Enisei-STM.

South Africa international centre Wynand Olivier, meanwhile, returns from a long-term injury absence for Worcester’s Pool Two appointment with Stade Francais in Paris, with Warriors showing 15 changes from the Bristol game

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Exeter Chiefs ready to translate home form to European glory in Champions Cup

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The Chiefs have been dominant in domestic rugby

Exeter will aim to transfer their consistently-impressive domestic form to the European stage when they begin their Champions Cup campaign on Saturday.

Despite reaching the last three Premiership finals – winning one of them – and currently topping the league table, Exeter have yet to make a consistent mark in Europe.

They have progressed beyond the pool stage once in five attempts, and life is not about to get any easier, with Munster, French champions Castres and Gloucester in a group that only only one team is guaranteed qualification from.

“Everyone talks about Exeter being that little step away, but last season was probably the perfect example,” Exeter Rugby director Rob Baxter said, ahead of Munster’s Sandy Park visit.

“We got the perfect start beating Glasgow and then Montpellier. Did we then let ourselves own a little bit against Leinster? Potentially, yes.

Fine margins: Exeter Chiefs' director of rugby Rob Baxter.

Fine margins: Exeter Chiefs’ director of rugby Rob Baxter.

“When you look at how tight those two games were between us and them, it came down to some fine margins in the end. If we are honest, we probably let ourselves down a little in that first game.

“What we’ve talked about recently is that when you get those one or two scenarios that go against you, we now have to push ourselves on to that next level knowing we can drive our way through it.

“If you look at Leinster last year, especially in that second game, we had them under pressure, they were behind on the scoreboard, they had yellow cards, yet they still found a way to win the game. That is what we have to add.”

Bath begin against four-time European champions Toulouse at the Recreation Ground on Saturday, but they will do it without injured number eight Taulupe Faletau (broken arm), although fellow Wales international Jamie Roberts returns from a cheekbone injury.

“We want to go one better than last year and progress from what is another tough pool,” Bath Rugby director Todd Blackadder said. “I’m confident we can do well.

“You have to take every point on offer in this competition. Our target is to win all our home matches and pick up some points on the road. We need to make sure we are consistent.”

Leicester will look to put patchy Premiership form behind them when they face Pool Four hosts Ulster in Belfast on Saturday, but they are without England wing Jonny May because of a shoulder injury suffered against Northampton last weekend.

“Jonny got a bang on the shoulder last week and there is no major damage, so it will certainly not be a long-term injury, but injuries also give opportunities to others to come in and make a claim to the shirt,” Tigers’ interim head coach Geordan Murphy said.

“Europe is always tough, Ulster have a very good record at home and we’ve not done well there in the past, but the guys want to test themselves at the top table and we are looking forward to it.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, last season’s Champions Cup semi-finalists Scarlets host 2018 runners-up Racing 92, while Edinburgh face a tough Pool Five test away to Montpellier.

Sunday’s action sees Saracens – Champions Cup winners in 2016 and 2017 – beginning their title quest at Glasgow in Pool Three, while Newcastle return to top-flight European competition after a 14-year absence in Toulon, Gloucester host French champions Castres and Cardiff Blues travel to Lyon.

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