A Six Nations disciplinary committee has banned French lock Pascal Pape for 10 weeks for a knee in the back foul that left Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip with three fractured vertebrae.

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The foul deserved a longer ban, the committee said in a statement on Thursday, but Pape saved himself with his “expressions of remorse”.

The French player will miss the rest of the Six Nations tournament because of the challenge inflicted during Ireland’s 18-11 win over France in Dublin on Saturday.

Heaslip, 31, has already been told he will be sidelined for at least four weeks, but the Irish Rugby Football Union has said he should make a full recovery.

Pape was sin-binned with a yellow card by referee Wayne Barnes for the 52nd minute challenge, but the disciplinary committee said the offence merited a red card.

The committee ruled that “the offence should be categorised at the top end of World Rugby’s scale of seriousness and set an entry point of a 15 week suspension”.

But it also noted Pape’s admission of foul play and his expressions of remorse, reducing the sanction by one third to 10 weeks.

Pape still has the right of appeal following the two days of hearings at London’s Heathrow Airport.

French coach Philippe Saint-Andre had defended his player after the game.

“When you watch the images of the incident I don’t think you can say it was deliberate,” he said.

But Pape made a public apology to Heaslip on Twitter on Tuesday, saying he was “sincerely sorry for having injured” him and that it he had “absolutely no intention to cause him harm”.

The Irishman replied saying: “It’s a physical game that we play and these things happen. I fully accept your apology.”

Ireland next play England in Dublin on March 1 in the match that could decide the tournament. The two countries are the only two to have won all their games so far.

France play Wales on February 28 needing a win to keep alive their faint hopes of a Six Nations title.