Jason Hobson's ban is a big blow to Bristol Rugby's play-off hopes
BRISTOL Rugby's bid to secure a Championship play-off spot has suffered a major setback after prop Jason Hobson's appeal against his 12-week ban for biting was dismissed.
Hobson was initially found guilty of biting Plymouth Albion centre Bevon Armitage during the teams' Championship clash at Brickfields in November – but appealed against both the verdict and the suspension.
However, a three-man Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel dismissed Hobson's appeal at a hearing in Bristol.
The 29-year-old – arguably the club's most important player – is free to play again on April 9 as he has already served two weeks of his ban before lodging his appeal.
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That means he will miss six key Championship matches – against Moseley, Rotherham, Bedford, Nottingham, Jersey and Plymouth – as well as a potential British & Irish Cup quarter-final clash.
He will be free to return for his team's penultimate regular-season game at London Scottish on April 13. Bristol conclude their 22-game regular season at Newcastle on April 20.
In a brief statement published on their official website, the club said: "Bristol Rugby are extremely disappointed at the outcome and will be making no further comment at the time."
Bristol skipper, Iain Grieve, meanwhile took to his Twitter account – @GrieveIain – and appeared to show support for his prop. "Can't believe that, very hard done by," he wrote.
Bristol, who are fourth in the Championship, but have played one game more than the sides in fifth and sixth, have three other senior tighthead props in their ranks – Bruce Douglas, Gaston Cortes and Wayne Thompson.
The RFU disciplinary panel comprised Philip Evans, who chaired the hearing, Dr Julian Morris and William Harbage QC.
Saracens have announced their Heineken Cup quarter-final against Ulster on April 6 will be played at Twickenham.
The Aviva Premiership club's new Allianz Park home, complete with its artificial playing surface, had been mooted as a possible venue.
But club chairman Nigel Wray told Saracens' official website yesterday that the game will be staged at Twickenham.
"We look forward to playing this important match at the home of English rugby, a ground that many of our players know extremely well," said Wray.
Harlequins will host Munster at their Twickenham Stoop home the following day, with the quarter-final line-up completed by Leicester visiting Toulon and Clermont Auvergne hosting Montpellier.