England rugby star Denny Solomona handed four-week ban over homophobic slur

SALFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: Denny Solomona of Sale Sharks during the Aviva Premiership match between Sale Sharks and Saracens at AJ Bell Stadium on February 16, 2018 in Salford, England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

An England Rugby player has been banned from playing for four weeks after he used a homophobic slur.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) doled out the punishment to Denny Solomona, who plays for the Sale Sharks in the top tier of English Rugby, and is in the English national squad.

The New Zealand-born player is alleged to have used anti-gay slurs against Worcester fly-half Jamie Shillcock during a match last month.

Denny Solomona of Sale Sharks (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

Shillcock alleges that Solomona “made a homophobic slur twice” during an altercation 55 minutes into the match.

Solomona contested the charge, but an RFU panel found him guilty of a conduct offence today.

He was initially given an initial six-week suspension, but the ban was reduced to four weeks after citing a number of “mitigating factors” such as his recent record and conduct at the hearing.

Solomona will be banned from playing until May 8, effectively benching him for the rest of the season.

The chair of the disciplinary panel Samantha Hillas said: “The panel found that the player used language that was verbally abusive on more than one occasion in quick succession.

“The comments were offensive and have no place on the rugby field. However, the panel accepted that they were said in the heat of the moment rather than premeditated.

“For these reasons, the panel deemed it was a low end entry point which carries a six-week suspension as a starting point.

“The player did not accept the charge but all other mitigating features were present. The panel therefore reduced the sanction to four weeks.”

The Sale Sharks said in a statement: “Although disappointed, Denny Solomona and the club have accepted the four-week ban handed down to Denny for conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union or the game.

“Byron McGuigan will now move to No 14 for Friday’s Aviva Premiership home match against Wasps with TJ Ioane coming onto the replacements bench.”

Solomona was charged with “conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Union or the Game, contrary to RFU Rule 5.12”

Denny Solomona of England looks on during a recovery session at the Hilton Vilamoura on November 2, 2017 in Vilamoura, Portugal. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The RFU and England Rugby have clamped down on homophobia in recent years.

Denny Solomona looks on during the England training session held at Brighton College on May 16, 2017 in Brighton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Prince Harry recently met with players from one of the UK’s biggest gay rugby clubs as part of his role as Patron of England Rugby.

A rugby player was dropped from France’s official squad earlier this year after using homophobic slurs during a match.

Mathieu Bastareaud, a French rugby union centre who plays for Toulon, came under fire for comments he made during a Toulon v Benetton match for European Champions Cup.

The player referred to his opponent as a “f**king faggot.”

Mathieu Bastareaud (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

He was suspended for three weeks.

During a confrontation with the opposing team’s flanker Sebastian Negri, Bastareaud referred to him as a “f**king faggot”.

France coach Jacques Brunel had initially defended the player – claiming he could not be homophobic because he is black.

Brunel had claimed that Bastareaud knows what it feels like to be stigmatised because he “has coloured skin”, adding: “I don’t believe (because of this) that he could have acted in such a way.”

He insisted: “There are things we can say on the spur of the moment without thinking.”

The player pleaded guilty to allegations of verbally abusing Negri.

Incredibly, the player had his actions defended by his club.

Toulon said: “Rugby Club Toulonnais would like to remind everyone that the Club has always advocated and defended differences between individuals and the respect of these differences.

“The RCT is convinced that Mathieu used these unfortunate comments whilst in a state of aggravation, as can happen regularly during a game of rugby and that he is not at all homophobic.

“This kind of language should not allow people to condemn our captain who has always defended the rich diversity between individuals and proves it every day within our heterogeneous group of players.”

Bastareaud took to Twitter to ‘apologise’ for the incident – while he attempted to blame Negri.

He said: “Good evening everybody, I want to apologise for my reactions to the insults from the Italian player.

“I reacted badly in responding to his provocation, I am sincerely sorry for the people I hurt.”