The England forward George Burgess will miss the final rugby league Test against New Zealand after being found guilty of eye-gouging.
Burgess has been suspended for four matches for the incident during England’s series-clinching win at Anfield at the weekend.
An international panel found he had unlawfully come into contact with Kiwis full-back Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s eye late in the game.
The South Sydney prop was also fined 980 dollars at the disciplinary hearing.
The suspension means he will miss South’s first three games in next year’s NRL competition.
Burgess took to social media to defend himself.
“I want to make it completely clear to everyone that it was never my intention to ever gauge (sic) anyone,” said on Twitter after the hearing.
“It is not in my makeup as a rugby league player and never has been. I sincerely apologise to anyone who thinks bad of me after seeing the footage.
“I accept my punishment but I will never accept that I gauged a fellow players eye intentionally. I have too much respect for the players I play against and with.”
The incident, which occurred 20 minutes from the end of England’s 20-14 victory, went unpunished by referee Gerard Sutton and Watene-Zelezniak brushed off the clash in his post-match interviews.
However, the Rugby Football League announced on Monday that New Zealand cited the incident and Burgess was referred to a disciplinary hearing.
Kiwis and Penrith full-back Watene-Zelezniak had to have treatment for the injury, shortly after coming into contact on the ground with Burgess.
The suspension is a major blow for Souths, who face defending-premiers Sydney Roosters in the opening round before a clash with the traditionally fast- starting St George Illawarra at Kogarah.
The Rabbitohs are already facing an uncertain start to their pre-season with speculation continuing to mount that Anthony Seibold and Wayne Bennett’s coaching swap will come within weeks.