SHOCKED Andy Hazell found himself scared on a rugby pitch for the first time in Mont de Marsan.
The Gloucester flanker admits there is no excuse for his reaction to extreme provocation, kneeing and punching Sebastien Ormaechea that led to a 14-week ban.
The 34-year-old is still at a loss to explain quite how he lost his cool – but he told the Echo he cannot condone his behaviour and will not defend it.
Instead he is focused on battling hard in training to ensure he is ready to play the day his ban ends, on January 21.
Strength and conditioning boss Paddy Anson has created a personal training regime for Hazell, to keep the Gloucester-born back-rower in top condition while he sits out match action.
Hazell was sent off in Gloucester's 11-6 Mont de Marsan victory on Thursday, October 11, for his reaction to alleged incidents of gouging from the Frenchmen.
Competition organisers European Rugby Cup found insufficient evidence to take action against the French club.
Without pointing fingers, Hazell admitted his experiences at Stade Guy Boniface broke new and unwelcome ground on a rugby field.
He explained: "I've never shied away from the physical side of the game. I've been stamped on in rucks, I've been rucked out of the way of the ball, and I've taken plenty of rough stuff that's all part and parcel of a contact sport.
"But this was something different and a real shock.
"What happened was quite scary, to happen on a rugby pitch, I'd never experienced anything like it before, to be honest.
"I wish I could take back my reaction, I don't really know what came over me and I was embarrassed by that.
"But I've had to put that behind me and just focus on what's coming next.
"No one can condone what I did, and I certainly won't defend myself on that.
"A few things happened and I unfortunately wasn't able to control myself.
"And I think what I want to say is that no matter what you face on the pitch, the challenge is still to keep your control.
"I would normally pride myself on knowing where that line is, and I want to make sure that never happens again.
"I've beaten myself up about it time and time again and I'm mortified, because I overstepped the mark.
"Nigel (Davies) didn't particularly dish out too many harsh words, because he knew I already knew.
"And he's been great about the whole thing, to be honest, very supportive."
If working out his frustrations on the weights bench was not the greatest idea, Hazell said he is now relishing training – especially Tuesday afternoons.
He continued: "The big challenge for me now is to make sure I come back in the best possible shape.
"I want to be ready to play from the very first day the ban ends.
"I don't want to lose any more time than I have to – it's a big ask, but I'm working extremely hard to make sure that happens.
"Paddy has worked out a specific programme for me, it started with a lot of strength work and we're moving through that into more conditioning now.
"My first few days in training afterwards didn't go so well, though.
"I was lifting some weights and pushing myself really hard.
"Some of the lads were in there geeing me up – and I popped a rib as I pushed it just that bit too far.
"That was the first week after the ban, and that meant I had to sit out a week's training to recover.
"But I'm comfortably back into things now.
"Tuesday afternoon is usually the time when we do a contact session as a group of forwards, so I'm almost treating that like my game day, to be honest.
"So I might be a bit of a pest in that for a few weeks yet!"