Joe Marler handed six-week ban, will miss start of Six Nations

Joe Marler was sent off during Harlequins' defeat against Sale. David Rogers/Getty Images for Harlequins

Harlequins prop Joe Marler will miss England's first two games of the 2018 Six Nations after he was handed a six-week ban for a dangerous challenge during his side's defeat to Sale on Saturday.

Marler, 27, was shown a red card by referee Matt Carley during the 58th minute of the Aviva Premiership clash after he struck opposing back-row TJ Ioane with his shoulder while attempting to clear out a ruck.

The England front-rower, who has earned 53 caps for Eddie Jones' side since making his debut in 2012, appeared before an RFU independent disciplinary panel on Tuesday.

The panel's chairman, Philip Evans QC, said in statement: "The panel found that contact was made with the head of TJ Ioane and as a result the mandatory entry point is mid-range.

"The panel considered that the player's previous record was such that it required an additional period of suspension of one week, however because of his plea, his conduct since the incident took place and other personal mitigation, the panel allowed some reduction."

As a result of the ban, Marler will not be able to play again until Feb. 20, meaning that he will be sidelined for the opening two matches of England's Six Nations title defence, against Italy and Wales.

He will be free to return for the matchup with Scotland at Murrayfield on Feb. 24.

Sale's Ioane was given a two-week suspension after he was cited for another incident in the same match, which saw him strike Marler with his arm five minutes before the prop's dismissal.

The Samoan flanker pleaded guilty to the charge and will be available to play again on Jan. 23, ruling him out of the Sharks' upcoming European Challenge Cup fixtures against Lyon and Toulouse.