Cheetahs centre Nico Lee has been given a 13-week ban for clearing the contents of his nose onto the face of an opposing player during the Pro14 defeat to Connacht last Saturday.

Lee will not play again this season after he was sanctioned for an incident involving Colby Fainga'a at The Sportsground.

The 24-year-old, who will not be available to return until July 21, admitted committing an act that was against the spirit of good sportsmanship and issued an apology for his actions.

A disciplinary panel stated: "The player's actions are an act of foul play. They have no place in the game. This is not a case of over-exuberance, or an act which is within the rules of the game going awry.

"It follows that by its nature this act is one that is deserving of punishment. It is contrary to the spirit of sport."

The panel concluded: "It is difficult to imagine how an act of foul play of this sort could be worse, save for repeated acts or where actual injury is caused."

Lee said in a video posted on the Cheetahs' Twitter account: "I would like to start by apologising to Cheetahs Rugby, my team-mates, supporters, the Pro14, and everyone that believed in me, for my actions.

"That's not the type of person or player I am and it was an act of stupidity. I'd just like to say sorry and I apologise for everything."

Josh Strauss will be available for Scotland's Six Nations clash with France on Saturday despite losing his passport.

Strauss was in danger of missing the encounter after misplacing his South African travel document ahead of the trip to Paris.

The Scottish Rugby Union on Wednesday confirmed to Omnisport the issue has been resolved and the back row will be in contention to take on Les Bleus.

That will come as a relief to Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, who has already lost Finn Russell (concussion) and Stuart Hogg (shoulder).

Scotland are third in the table after a 22-13 defeat to Ireland before the rest weekend.

Highlanders centre Sio Tomkinson will face no further action after his red card for a tackle on Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick was rescinded.

Tomkinson was given his marching orders by referee Glen Jackson just five minutes after coming on in the second half of the first game of the Super Rugby season in Hamilton last Friday.

The 22-year-old was adjudged to have been guilty of a dangerous hit on the New Zealand lock, who was unable to continue in a contest which ended with a 30-27 victory for the Highlanders.

However, it was ruled at a SANZAAR judicial committee hearing that Tomkinson should not have been dismissed.

Judicial committee chairman Michael Heron QC said: "The judicial committee conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and relevant match reports. 

"The committee heard evidence from the player, a member of the Highlanders' coaching staff, and received submissions from his legal representative, Aaron Lloyd. The committee adjourned the hearing to make further inquiries with the match referee and received additional information from him. 

"With the benefit of this further information, the judicial committee was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the referee was wrong in issuing the red card. The committee determined to remove the red card from the player's record.

"The judicial committee found that the player made contact with his shoulder to the shoulder of the Chiefs player. On careful review of the footage, and on receiving further evidence as above, the committee determined that the player did not make contact with the head of the Chiefs player and he did attempt to use his arm in the attempted tackle. 

"Due to the rapid change in angle from the Chiefs player, and the tackle of the other Highlanders player involved, the incident appeared to be more significant that it was. 

"The committee had the benefit of lengthy analysis and review of the footage and the other evidence which enabled it to determine that there was no contact to the head by the player and no foul play."

Former England back row Tom Wood has signed a new contract with Northampton Saints.

Wood has made 180 appearances for Northampton since joining from Worcester Warriors in 2010 and captained the Saints to a Premiership and European Challenge Cup double in the 2013-14 season.

The 32-year-old stalwart, who won the last of his 50 international caps against Ireland almost two years ago, is targeting more honours after agreeing a new deal to remain at Franklin's Gardens for at least another campaign.

"I've made it clear from the beginning that it was always my first choice to stay here with Northampton Saints, so the decision for me was a straightforward one," said Wood.

"I feel as fit as ever and I believe we are on the right track towards success under the guidance of Chris Boyd and our other coaches – so I'm really enjoying my rugby.

"I care very deeply about this club and our passionate supporters; I'm desperate to help get us back to the very top of European rugby and to finish my career on a high at Franklin's Gardens.

"I want to thank everyone at Saints for showing faith in me and giving me this opportunity to fulfil that aim."

Wallabies and Rebels star Dane Haylett-Petty has signed a two-year deal with Rugby Australia (RA), extending his stay until the end of 2021.

Haylett-Petty, 29, has played 31 Tests for the Wallabies since making his debut against England in 2016.

"I've really enjoyed my time in Melbourne since arriving last year. This environment has really helped me develop as a player on the field, and as a leader off the field," the Rebels captain said in a statement.

"I wanted to do what was best for my development as a rugby player, and that was to stay here in Australia and to continue my journey here at the Rebels and Wallabies.

"We have a lot left to achieve at an international level and I want to contribute to the best of my ability. The World Cup is a major goal, of course, but this season we've already spoken about how important the Rugby Championship is and how much we want to get our hands on the Bledisloe Cup for all of Australia.

"There's no bigger honour – and challenge – than representing your country and competing against the best teams and players in the world."

Outside back Haylett-Petty has already played abroad, having featured for Biarritz in France and the Tokyo Shokki Shuttles in Japan.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika believes those experiences have helped the South Africa-born star.

"Dane is a real competitor and has quickly stepped up to the standard of Test footy," he said.

"The outside backs are a really competitive position in our side and Dane often leads the way in how he prepares during the week and his commitment during games on the weekend.

"He's had that experience overseas, which has helped mature him as a footballer and I know how desperate he is to have a big part to play in the World Cup later this year."

RA also announced former Australia league and union international Michael O'Connor had been appointed as a selector, joining Cheika and incoming director of rugby Scott Johnson.

Luther Burrell will trade rugby union for rugby league later this year when he joins Super League side Warrington Wolves from Northampton Saints.

The former England international centre has agreed a deal to leave Northampton at the end of the Premiership season, joining Wire on July 1.

The 31-year-old has agreed a two-year deal with Warrington and says he is excited to make the move.

"I know I will need to earn the trust of my team-mates first and foremost," Burrell said. "I also hope to bring some physicality, that edge and the ability to break the line.

"I've had the opportunity to play for England in union and to play on some of the biggest stages in finals. I'd like to think I can transfer the experience I have gained into rugby league.

"I'm not here to make up the numbers. I'm coming over and I mean business."

Maro Itoje will miss England's Six Nations clash with Wales on Saturday as expected, forwards coach Steve Borthwick confirmed.

The star lock sustained a ligament injury to his right knee during England's eye-catching 32-20 opening-round win against reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland, keeping him out of the subsequent victory over France.

It was reported Itoje would not be fit in time to face Wales either and that has now been verified by Borthwick.

"Maro continues to go well and he continues to rehab day by day as he gets back from injury, but he is not going to be available for Saturday's game," Borthwick told Sky Sports.

"You are always looking towards the future and the progressions day by day. He is doing well but not quite ready for Saturday."

Borthwick would not confirm Itoje's status for the next match against Italy, adding: "I expect him to continue to be monitored on a day-by-day basis and progress.

"Right now, he's not fit for Saturday and I am not looking beyond that."

Wales, like England, have won their first two matches this year, seeing off France and Italy away from home.

Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar are back in training for Wales, who hope to have the duo available to take on England in the Six Nations this weekend.

Full-back Halfpenny has not featured since November, having suffered concussion against Australia, while fly-half Biggar started in the win over Italy last time out but played only 20 minutes for Northampton Saints on Saturday before departing injured.

In a media conference on Tuesday, forwards coach Robin McBryde offered a positive update on the pair, although he stopped short of declaring them fit for the clash in Cardiff against England who, like Wales, have won each of their opening two matches of the tournament.

"Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar are training with us and hopefully will both be available for selection," he said.

"Leigh needed a bit more contact in training. He hadn't had enough last week - that's why he didn’t play at the weekend [for the Scarlets].

"We are building him up this week. There's no way we would put somebody in a position he's not comfortable with. Those discussions will take place later this week."

England head coach Eddie Jones said previously he was preparing his side to face the greatest Wales team in history, but McBryde refused to be drawn into such hyperbole.

"I'm not going to enter into those games," he said. "I'm privileged to be doing what I am. We know Saturday is a big step and we have to match England with the World Cup around the corner.

"We have got to stand toe to toe with them. Stats are one thing - we know we haven't been at our best in our first two games. We are going to have to earn everything against England. We have had a comfortable feel this week."

Lock Iain Henderson is set to be involved in the Six Nations for the first time this year after linking up with the Ireland squad.

Henderson was named in the initial group for the tournament, yet a finger injury kept him out of the opening two matches against England and Scotland.

But having made his return ahead of schedule for Ulster last week, the 26-year-old has been named in the squad to face Italy in Rome this weekend, along with Tadhg Beirne, who has also been out.

A citing complaint has been made against Henderson for an incident in the game against Ospreys on Friday.

It was confirmed earlier in the week that Chris Farrell had been in full training despite a head injury last time out and he makes the 34-man group, but not all of Ireland's fitness concerns have been eased.

Garry Ringrose and Rhys Ruddock are both suffering with hamstring issues and will continue rehabilitation with Leinster.

Meanwhile, Will Addison is not involved as he experiences back stiffness and remains with Ulster.

Italy will be without captain Sergio Parisse for their Six Nations clash with Ireland after he sustained a suspected concussion in Top 14 action last weekend.

The number eight took a blow to the head while playing in Stade Francais' 24-13 win over Lyon.

On Tuesday, the Italian Rugby Federation confirmed he will be unable to take on the defending champions in Rome on Sunday as he continues to go through the return-to-play protocols.

Although he will play no part in the contest at the Stadio Olimpico, Parisse will remain with the squad to offer support to his team-mates.

Parisse broke the Six Nations appearance record when he led Italy in their tournament opener against Scotland.

Italy lost that fixture and were also beaten by Wales last time out, stretching their record run of successive Six Nations defeats to 19.

Jacques Brunel insists his decision to drop Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez from France's squad to face Scotland had nothing to do with their criticism of the management in the wake of the loss to England.

The Clermont Auvergne pair started each of Les Bleus' opening two Six Nations matches - a 24-19 defeat at home to Wales before the 44-8 hammering at Twickenham last time out.

On Tuesday, Brunel announced his side to take on Scotland in Paris on Saturday, with no place among the 23 for scrum-half Parra or number 10 Lopez, who have 92 international caps between them.

Instead, Antoine Dupont will start in Parra's stead while 19-year-old Romain Ntamack gets the nod alongside him in what will be only the teenager's third appearance.

"It's a sporting choice," Brunel said in a media conference. "The hinge against England did not have the expected results, and the entry of Antoine and the performances of Romain showed quality.

"So that's why we have to trust them. A defeat like the one suffered against England deserved to change things."

Asked if he still included Parra as part of his plans for the World Cup later this year, Brunel replied: "Of course," before it was put to him that the decision to drop he and Lopez would be seen as punishment for their remarks after the Twickenham thrashing.

"What can I say to that? I'm telling you, no, and you're saying otherwise," Brunel replied.

"I can't tell you anything more. Ask them, you'll see what they tell you.

"I know too much about...how things are wrapped up, turned around and altered to let me be disturbed by this kind of thing."

And Brunel is not concerned at selecting Ntamack at number 10, even though he regularly operates at centre for Toulouse and started in that position against Wales.

"That is not a problem. To have spoken with him, I know that he has no particular preference, he evolves in a position of centre with Toulouse, but at the same time he is an organiser of the game," the coach added.

"If we ever had any doubt, we wouldn't have done it."

Scotland have suffered a major blow ahead of their Six Nations match against France, with Finn Russell ruled out due to a head injury.

Influential fly-half Russell emerged as a doubt for Saturday's fixture in Paris after he was injured in Racing 92's Top 14 clash with Toulouse over the weekend.

On Tuesday, Scottish Rugby confirmed he had "not satisfied the requirements of today’s component of the graduated return to play protocol", meaning he can no longer be considered for selection.

Peter Horne, who came off the bench in Scotland's home defeat to Ireland last time out, and Adam Hastings are the likeliest candidates to start at 10 in Russell's absence.

Head coach Gregor Townsend also added Worcester Warriors stand-off Duncan Weir to his squad on Monday.

France named their team to face Scotland on Tuesday, with Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack making up a new-look pairing in the halves. Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez, the starting nine and 10 in the losses to Wales and England, have dropped out of the matchday 23.

Robbie Henshaw has extended his deal with Ireland and Leinster through to June 2022, it has been announced.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed the news on Tuesday, five days prior to Ireland's Six Nations trip to face Italy in Rome.

Henshaw, who made his international bow in 2013, has won 37 caps for his country, the last of which came in the surprise 32-20 defeat at home to England in the defending champions' opening game of this year's tournament.

A dead leg saw the centre miss out on the victory over Scotland at Murrayfield last time out, and the 25-year-old was thrilled to have agreed terms on a new deal.

"I am delighted to have signed a new three-year contract with the IRFU," Henshaw said.

"It is an exciting time to be part of Irish rugby and having tasted success with both Ireland and Leinster in recent seasons I am eager to play a role in driving further success at both international and provincial level."

"Robbie has established himself as a leader within this Ireland squad and has delivered consistent world class performances which have helped to drive the sustained success enjoyed by the national team," added IRFU performance director David Nucifora.

"He has a hunger for improvement and in driving the standards of those around him."

Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont will make up France's half-back pairing for Saturday's home Six Nations meeting with Scotland as Les Bleus make four changes from the defeat to England.

Jacques Brunel's side were soundly thrashed 44-8 at Twickenham last time out, which came on the back of their 24-19 loss to Wales in Paris to open the tournament.

And Brunel has responded to those disappointing results by making alterations at nine and 10, as Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez drop out of the matchday 23 with Dupont and Ntamack given the nod to start at scrum-half and fly-half respectively.

Ntamack, the son of former Les Bleus utility back Emile, made his debut at outside centre against Wales and came off the bench versus England.

The other changes see Thomas Ramos handed a maiden start at full-back, with Yoann Huget switching from 15 to the left wing and Gael Fickou moving inside to the centre, while Wenceslas Lauret is picked at flanker in place of Yacouba Camara.

 

France XV to face Scotland: Thomas Ramos, Damian Penaud, Mathieu Bastareaud, Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Demba Bamba, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Felix Lambey, Wenceslas Lauret, Arthur Iturria, Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Etienne Falgoux, Dorian Aldegheri, Paul Willemse, Gregory Alldritt, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Belleau, Maxime Medard.

Rhys Webb has followed Toulon team-mate Julian Savea's lead in defending himself in the wake of criticism from club president Mourad Boudjellal.

Saturday's 19-10 defeat away at Agen left big-spending Toulon languishing 11th in the Top 14 table, 14 points adrift of the top six and a place in the play-offs.

Boudjellal took aim at some of his players after the disappointing result, with Savea one of those mentioned in comments made to RMC on Sunday.

The New Zealand wing was seemingly told he was no longer welcome at Toulon, though the player responded on Twitter by saying he would ignore the negativity and continue to honour his contract by training and playing for the team.

As for Webb, Boudjellal said: "His agents are offering him all over Wales, while he still owes us one more year on his contract. Don't worry, I won't hold him back."

Those comments prompted Webb's representatives to issue a riposte, explaining the trying personal circumstances the British and Irish Lion scrum-half had endured while insisting he had no intention of departing the club.

"The last month or so has been really difficult for Rhys with his family moving back to Wales because one of his sons found it hard to settle out there and adjust to being in a French language school," said Webb's agent Derwyn Jones.

"However, Rhys wants to make it clear he hasn't had any conversations with the club at all about leaving Toulon.

"He has a strong family network which will support his fiancee and children back home in Bridgend. Toulon have openly said he's one of the most professional players they have come across.

"Rhys' immediate goal is to help the club start winning again and make the top six in the French league. The club have spoken to me to say they are concerned about how Rhys will cope without his family.

"But Rhys has assured me he's committed to the club. The club have not indicated to me they are unhappy with Rhys, which is a totally separate conversation. So Rhys remains committed to the team."

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