Saints confirmed in a statement that the 56-cap veteran had spat the dummy and indicated his intention to leave the club because he did not get the captaincy.
The 28-year-old Cohen, who has played 270 games and won a Heineken Cup winners’ medal in 2000 in his 11-year Saints career, has failed to attend training at the club since the captaincy appointment was announced last Wednesday.
“In doing so he made himself unavailable for selection for [last] Sunday’s pre-season friendly against Samoa,” the club statement said.
With Saints’ opening match of the National League One season, against London Welsh, just over a week away and despite meetings and repeated requests from director of rugby Jim Mallinder and chairman Keith Barwell, Cohen has continued to stay away from training this week.
“Ben came to see me and said he was unhappy about not being appointed captain. He said: ‘That’s it, I’m off’,” explained Barwell.
“I am bitterly disappointed both with Ben’s decision and also with his action in staying away.
“He has been a brilliant servant to the club for more than 11 years, but no man is bigger than the club. It is the director of rugby’s responsibility to appoint the captain and I support Jim’s choice of Bruce Reihana wholeheartedly – his decision must be final.”
Mallinder added that they will not release Cohen and he may well sit on the sidelines for the season if he doesn’t play.
“Ben’s contract with the club runs until the end of the coming season and he is not able to play for any other club in the meantime.”
Cohen came from the junior club route of the Old Scouts, through the Saints youth system and onto World Cup-winning glory.
He made his Saints debut against Treorchy in the 1996/97 season and has rarely been left off the team sheet.
Cohen won his first cap for England against Ireland in the 2000 Six Nations and since then has added a further 55 caps to his tally. His score rate is just as impressive for his country and has racked up 29 tries.
But he lost form since 2004 and also lost his England spot.
He was also dropped from the Saints starting XV by former head coach Alan Solomons.