Italy will be without captain Sergio Parisse for the rest of the Six Nations Championship after he was handed a 30-day suspension for swearing at a referee.
The No 8 was shown a red card for verbal abuse of match official Laurent Cardona in the 36th minute of his club Stade Francais' French Top 14 game against Bordeaux last Saturday, a charge which he denies.
And the French league's disciplinary commission (LNR) decided on Wednesday to hand Parisse a 40-day ban, with 10 days suspended.
An LNR statement said: "Mr Sergio Parisse will be allowed to play again on 18 March, 2013."
Parisse is widely regarded as one of the best loose forwards in world rugby and the loss of their captain is a huge blow to the Italians.
The 29-year-old, who has been capped 93 times, will miss Saturday's home match against Wales, the game with England at Twickenham on 10 March, and the visit of Ireland to Rome on 16 March.
Parisse has appealed the decision and a new hearing will be held next Monday or Tuesday but the appeal does not suspend his punishment and so he will definitely miss the Wales game.
Italy began their Six Nations campaign with a memorable 23-18 home win over France but were beaten 34-10 by Scotland in their latest match.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel had already called the veteran back-row forward Mauro Bergamasco into his squad, in anticipation of Parisse being handed a ban.
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