Saracens will be without key man Owen Farrell for their crucial Champions Cup quarter-final with Leinster after the fly-half was handed a five-match suspension. 

The England captain was sent off for a high tackle on Wasps full-back Charlie Atkinson in Saracens’ 28-18 defeat on Saturday. 

During an online disciplinary hearing on Tuesday evening the 28-year-old accepted the charge which could actually have resulted in a stricter punishment as the independent panel decided the offence was at the top end of severity, resulting in a suspension of 10 weeks, but chose to halve it due to mitigating factors. 

The decision means Farrell will definitely miss his side’s European clash with Leinster on 19 September as well as a host of Premiership contests, but he will be free to captain England in their rearranged Six Nations match with Italy on 31 October. 

Panel chair Mike Hamlin said: “It was accepted by the Rugby Football Union, the player and the panel that the offending was reckless and not intentional. 

“This was a totally unacceptable contact with the neck/head of Charlie Atkinson as a result of a reckless tackle which had the consequences of him being knocked unconscious and sustaining a concussion. 

“This resulted in the panel concluding that this was a top end offence with an entry point of 10 matches. There were no aggravating features. 

“Testimonials provided by (Saracens director of rugby) Mark McCall, (England head coach) Eddie Jones and the founders of a charity with which the player works very closely were of the highest quality. 

“The panel concluded that applying the off-field mitigating factors, notwithstanding his suspension four and a half years ago, the player was entitled to a reduction from 10 matches to five meaningful matches.” 

Meanwhile, on the field, things didn’t get much better for McCall’s men as they suffered a second consecutive Premiership defeat on Wednesday evening. 

Albeit fielding a XV consisting of many fringe and youth players, it will have been disappointing for McCall to see his side fall to a 24-17 defeat to Sale Sharks. 

With Farrell’s suspension coming alongside Saracens decision to continually switch between a first-choice and fringe line-up since the return of the Premiership, their build-up for the monumental clash with the PRO14 finalists has been disjointed to say the least. 

Nevertheless, McCall believes the club is in an optimistic frame of mind. 

Speaking after the defeat he said: “We never really had the weight or physicality to trouble them. 

“But being 21-7 down, to scrap and fight and show the togetherness and unity in the second half, from a young-ish team, was very pleasing. It's a happy changing room.”