SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's national women's captain Liz Patu could be suspended for the rest of the rugby season after being accused of biting an opponent in a "disgusting" act of foul play at the weekend.
Patu has been cited to face a Rugby Australia disciplinary hearing later on Monday after being accused of biting her Wallaroos team mate Rebecca Clough in a Super W match on Saturday.
The incident occurred during a ruck in the 70th minute when Rugby WA lock Clough remonstrated with Queensland prop Patu before then approaching referee Lara West to show her a bite mark on her left forearm.
"I'm just saying, I've been bitten," Clough said as she showed West her arm. "(Number) three," she then added, pointing to the tighthead prop Patu.
West spoke to the Queensland side about the incident but was unable to sanction the prop despite footage showing her appearing to bite Clough's arm, because the women's competition does not allow for the use of a television match official.
"That's pretty damning," former Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell said on the television commentary. "I think we will hear more about that and we should.
"That's disgusting and not part of our game, especially from an Australian representative and a captain at that."
Patu could face a minimum sanction of a 12-week suspension, although players can receive a reduced ban for mitigating circumstances, an early plea or consideration of their previous record.
Under World Rugby's regulations, the maximum penalty for biting is a four-year ban.
Biting and eye gouging are considered two of the more egregious displays of foul play in rugby circles, with a lower-level club player in Britain banned for two years in 2011 for allegedly biting off part of the ear lobe of an opponent.
Last year, Bulls prop Pierre Schoeman was banned for six weeks for biting Melbourne Rebels loose forward Richard Hardwick on the stomach during a Super Rugby clash in Pretoria.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Chadband)