London - Chris Ashton's hopes of earning a recall to the England rugby squad are under threat after the wing was charged by the Rugby Football Union over an alleged tip tackle.
The 31-year-old - who returned to England to join Sale after just one season with French giants Toulon because he wants to win back a spot in the national side - could face a minimum six week ban if on Thursday he is found guilty as charged by the three-member independent disciplinary panel.
Originally it had been thought referee Romain Poite had sent him off in last Friday's lively pre-season friendly with French outfit Castres for punching scrumhalf Rory Kockott.
In fact, the red card was issued for the tip tackle offence, the RFU said.
The minimum ban could rise given how the panel view the level of seriousness of the offense and the previous disciplinary record of the player concerned.
A lengthy suspension could upset Ashton's chances of consideration for England's November 2 game against South Africa, the first in a series of autumn internationals.
"Ashton was shown a red card by referee Roman Poite in the 46th minute of the pre-season fixture between Castres Olympique and Sale Sharks on Friday 17 August 2018," read the statement from the RFU.
"This was for a tip tackle on Rory Kockott contrary to law 9.18 (a player must not lift an opponent off the ground and drop or drive that player so that their head and/or upper body make contact with the ground)."
Ashton - who played the last of his 39 Tests in 2014 - has a chequered disciplinary record. When he played for Saracens he served a 10 week ban for eye gouging Ulster back Luke Marshall in January 2016 and then 13 weeks for biting Northampton Saints prop Alex Waller in a Premiership clash in September that year.