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Aviva Premiership
Hanks cleared of gouging
ESPN Staff
September 26, 2012
Exeter lock James Hanks, London Welsh v Exeter Chiefs, Aviva Premiership, Kassam Stadium, Oxford, England, September 16, 2012
Exeter lock James Hanks was cited in the wake of his side's Aviva Premiership clash with Saracens © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Michael Claassens | James Hanks | Dan Hipkiss
Tournaments/Tours: Aviva Premiership

Exeter lock James Hanks has been cleared of deliberately eye-gouging Saracens second row Steve Borthwick by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel.

Hanks was cited for allegedly making contact with Borthwick's "eye or eye area" during Exeter's 14-12 Aviva Premiership victory at Sandy Park on Sunday.

The RFU panel, chaired by chief disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett, concluded that the contact had been accidental and the citing was dismissed. "The panel concluded that James Hanks' finger did make contact with Steve Borthwick's eye," he said in a statement.

"However, the contact occurred in a dynamic situation during a ruck, when James Hanks was driving forward and putting his hand down to prevent him from falling over. The contact was entirely accidental."

The panel also cleared Bath centre Dan Hipkiss of an alleged tip tackle on London Irish forward Jamie Gibson and Bath scrum-half Michael Claassens was found not guilty of kicking Matt Garvey in the same Premiership match at the Madejski Stadium.

Blackett explained: "On review of the DVD the panel determined that Dan Hipkiss did not drop or drive Jamie Gibson's head and/or upper body into the ground. Dan Hipkiss tackled Jamie Gibson such that he landed on his back, so that the elements of law 10.4.J were not made out.

"The panel determined that the contact between Michael Claassens and Matt Garvey was a clumsy collision. Michael Claassens' movements were defensive and he made contact with knee and arms. He did not kick Matt Garvey. In the circumstances, an offence under 10.4.C is not made out."

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