Firstly the action was deemed high end- This is without question- The starting point was deemed 10 weeks- This was 2 weeks more than the entry point for high end. Had the punch connected 2 inches lower and broken the cheek bone or had Ashton not kneed him in the back first then the starting point would’ve been considerably higher.
Once at 10 weeks, there are certain mitigating factors which can reduce the ban even further:
It was in reaction to something- It was a massive over reaction but a reaction to the knee and push all the same.
The fact that Manu apologised to Ashton straight after the game and Ashton to his credit didn’t make a fuss out of it.
His age and experience; He is young and naïve and the biggest game of his career and the occasion clearly got to him.
His conduct in the d hearing- As you would expect from somebody who apologised straight away he was remorseful over the incident and that clearly came across.
I am sure also the nature of the games he is missing – The Premiership final and the entire Churchill Cup campaign which should kill his World Cup hopes, will have played a major part in determining the length of ban.
This incident has unquestionably damaged the image of the game and put an indelible mark against Manu’s fast growing reputation. But the RFU have acted and delivered a ban according to the procedures that are in place and hopefully as a result Manu has learned the lesson which will shape his future.