Cleall will miss England's match against Italy

England back row Poppy Cleall has been given a two-match ban meaning she will miss the start of the Women’s Six Nations.

Cleall was given the ban for “conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game”, according to the Rugby Football Union. An incident took place during Saracens’ match against Leicester Tigers in the Premiership Women’s Rugby.

Related: England Women’s Six Nations squad

Cleall admitted to using foul language and said the referee, while it was not her intention, could have perceived it was directed at her.

A breakdown from the disciplinary hearing quoted Cleall’s defence after she said “that’s a f**cking high tackle”. She said: “I accept that I said the word f**cking. However, this was an instinctive reaction after the shock of being hit in the face. I appreciate that there is never justification to use foul language on the rugby pitch but I wish to make clear that this was not aimed at the referee or anyone in particular…

“I can see how these comments could also be perceived as being directed to the referee, but it is my submission that this was certainly not my intention. I would never look to disrespect the authority of any match officials and apologised immediately post-match to the referee if it came across in this way.”

The ban means Cleall will miss Saracens’ league match against Bristol Bears on 10 March. In addition, she will be unavailable for England’s match against Italy in the opening round.

This comes after Cleall had fought her way back into the England squad. She had missed a training camp under new head coach John Mitchell. Cleall was the only contracted England player to be left out of the first camp of 2024.

However, her club form saw her named in a training camp from 4-6 March ahead of the Red Roses official tournament squad being named on 11 March.

If named in the squad, Cleall will be available for the other four matches of the tournament.

England will be looking to defend their Women’s Six Nations title. The team have won the trophy for the last five consecutive years. All of those wins have been Grand Slam titles.

The team are now in a new era under Mitchell. He has taken over after Simon Middleton stood down at the end of the last Women’s Six Nations campaign.

Middleton had been in charge since 2015, leading the team to two Rugby World Cup finals.

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