Cape Town - Nathan Hughes may have sent the most expensive tweet in rugby history as the England No 8 awaits punishment for appearing to mock the verdict of an RFU disciplinary panel.
According to the Stuff website, Hughes looks certain to miss England's Test against the Springboks (November 3), All Blacks (seven days later) and Japan on November 17, after tweeting "what a joke" during his hearing for an alleged punch.
The 27-year-old was already facing a six-week ban after he was cited for punching Lewis Ludlow in the head in Wasps' loss to Gloucester in last weekend's English Premiership, but his hastily deleted tweet looks set to land him in further trouble.
The UK's Daily Telegraph reported that his impending suspension could be extended beyond England's first three Tests next month to include Australia's visit to Twickenham, on November 24, so Hughes would miss out on the match fee of more than £23 000 (R440 000).
In an apparent reference to Hughes' tweet, the RFU said "an issue that arose during the evening" meant the disciplinary panel would "reconvene in not less than seven days" to consider his case.
"No judgment will be issued by the panel in this period and the panel direct that the player, Wasps Rugby and the RFU are to make no further comment until the case has concluded. The player remains suspended until the conclusion of the matter," the RFU's statement said.
Hughes' tweet was posted at 20:37 (UK time) on Tuesday, but it was quickly deleted.
Fijian-born Hughes, who moved to England in 2013 after playing 13 games for Auckland from 2009-2013, had a brain explosion in the final minute of the match against Gloucester when he was on his back, pinned down by Ludlum.
As the pair wrestled, Hughes appeared to land a punch with his right fist to the left side of the Gloucester flank's head.
Losing Hughes, who has played in 19 Tests for England since 2016, would be a huge blow. At 1.96m and 125kg, he is a massive physical presence.
Meanwhile, England coach Eddie Jones has growing problems with his squad as the end of year Tests near.
Jones has wings Jonny May and Marland Yarde under injury clouds from last weekend.
Leicester's May was forced off after just seven minutes of the Tigers' latest match, leaving the field with his arm in a sling after injuring his right shoulder.
Scans showed there was no break, but further assessments will reveal the full extent of the damage and how long he will be sidelined.
May has been England's top finisher in recent seasons and was a standout on their June tour of South Africa.
Yarde dislocated his left knee in Sale's win over Newcastle.
Nathan Hughes’ now deleted tweet at 8.37pm last night.— Jonny Fordham ???? (@SunJonnyFordham) October 11, 2018
RFU say “an issue arose during the evening” at 11.21pm and will sit again.
Another fine mess. pic.twitter.com/GqiDYSQq60