Clark's 'not a thug' says Blackett
English rugby's disciplinary chief insisted Northampton forward Calum Clark is "not a thug" after suspending him until November.
His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett, though, took a dim view of Clark's actions during the LV= Cup final defeat against Leicester two weeks ago when he hyperextended Tigers hooker Rob Hawkins' arm. It left Hawkins with a broken elbow and requiring surgery, sidelining him for the rest of this season.
Blackett said: "He is not a thug and presented as a genuine young man who was prepared to, and accepted, responsibility for his actions and their consequences."
Clark's suspension of 32 weeks is among the longest handed out to a senior English player during rugby union's 16-and-a-half-year professional era.
And it has emerged in the hearing's written judgement, which was released today by the Rugby Football Union, that Clark said he played the rest of the final "in a fog" after realising what he had done.
Clark said: "I realised what I had done - I put my hand to my mouth. I knew I was responsible, and played the rest of game in a fog. After the game I was approached by their (Leicester's) coach who made it clear what he thought. For me, the result of the game was insignificant.
"I am physical and aggressive, but always play within the laws of the game. It has been hard to deal with how others now think of me as a player."
Blackett said: "The offending was intentional. The player clearly intended to pull Hawkins' arm backwards after the whistle had been blown so that the ball became available and his side could play the ball quickly.
"I accept that he did not intend to harm Hawkins or cause him injury. I come to that conclusion because the player is not known as one who commits foul play, and by the way he presented and expressed himself at the hearing.
"I assessed that this offence was high on the scale of seriousness, not least because the player intentionally bent a vulnerable opponent's arm backwards causing a very severe injury, and he did so after the referee had blown his whistle to stop play. In assessing it as serious, I would like to stress that I accept that the player is not malicious and did not intend to cause serious injury."