London - Captain
Dylan Hartley was on Wednesday cleared to lead England in next month's
autumn Tests but prop Joe Marler will be suspended for two of the three
An independent disciplinary panel decided Hartley, who pleaded not
guilty, should receive no further sanction after being sent to the
sin-bin for striking Clermont prop Rabah Slimani during Northampton's
24-7 European Champions Cup defeat on Saturday.
But England coach Eddie Jones will be without Marler for next month's
matches against Argentina and Australia after the Harlequins
front-rower pleaded guilty to striking Wasps player Will Rowlands with
his forearm during his side's loss in Coventry the following day.
On a busy day for the sport's disciplinary process that included two
more cases, Wasps No. 8 Nathan Hughes was handed a two-week ban for
striking Marcus Smith on the neck but he will be available for the Pumas
clash on November 11.
"It was found Hartley had committed a reckless act of foul play in
that he had struck Slimani in the face. However, the committee was not
satisfied that the offence had warranted a red card," said a statement
from tournament organisers European Professional Club Rugby (EPRC).
The entry-point sanction for striking with the hand is a two-week ban, rising to eight weeks and above according to severity.
Although the offence was deemed minor, Hartley's dismal disciplinary
record, which has robbed him of 60 weeks of his career, threatened to
increase any sanction given and prevent him from captaining England next
Argentina, Australia and Samoa visit Twickenham on successive
weekends starting on November 11, and while the Northampton hooker is
under pressure from Jamie George for his place in the front row, he is
set to be retained in the role he has performed throughout Jones's
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder described the decision to cite Hartley as "unjustified".
"Citings like this do beg the question of whether Dylan is being
singled out for what has happened in the past rather than being judged
solely on Saturday's game," he said.
Marler will miss both the Argentina and Australia matches after being
banned for three weeks, but will be available for the final match
against Samoa on November 25.
"The committee upheld the citing complaint and determined that the
offence had warranted a red card, but decided after consideration that
the strike by the player was with the arm rather than the elbow," EPRC
The availability of Hughes, whose strike on Smith occurred in the
same match as the Marler incident at the Ricoh Arena, will come as a
relief to Jones due to his lack of depth at number eight after Billy
Vunipola was ruled out for three months with a knee injury.