Italy captain Sergio Parisse will miss the rest of the Six Nations Championship after being banned for insulting a referee.
The Stade Francais number eight landed a 40-day punishment from French league disciplinary chiefs - 10 days of which were suspended - following his sending off in Stade's game against Bordeaux-Begles last weekend.
Ligue Nationale de Rugby announced on their official website that Parisse is sidelined until March 18.
He subsequently denied he had insulted referee Laurent Cardona, but a disciplinary panel in Paris saw things differently.
Parisse is one of the world's top players and by far the most influential performer in an Italian side that started its Six Nations campaign by beating France, only to then suffer a comprehensive defeat against Scotland.
His absence is a hammer-blow for the Azzurri, with coach Jacques Brunel now forced into a back-row reshuffle and appointing a new skipper for Italy's remaining Six Nations fixtures.
Brunel had already called 93 times-capped Mauro Bergamasco into his 31-man squad, but Parisse's loss will be keenly felt.
Parisse, 29, has the right to appeal today's verdict, with any protest having to be lodged by Saturday.
Speaking earlier this week, Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards said he was not surprised Parisse had landed himself in hot water for back-chatting to a referee.
"It's not a surprise to me that he has been done for speaking to the referee. It's nothing he hasn't done before," Edwards said at a Wales press conference on Monday.
"Last Friday we were watching the tape back from our match against Italy last year, and he came out with profanities in the referee's earshot and saying what he was going to do to one of our players, so it is no surprise to me that he has been done for back-chatting to the referee.
"On that footage you can clearly hear what is said in the referee's microphone. He was saying what damage he was going to do to one of our players."
After facing Wales this weekend, Italy meet Six Nations title favourites England at Twickenham on March 10, then host Ireland six days later.
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