Rugby

Hartley sweats on Lions spot

2013-05-26 10:47
Dylan Hartley (File)

London - Dylan Hartley will face a Rugby Football Union (RFU) hearing on Sunday that could spell the end of his British and Irish Lions tour ambitions.

The 27-year old will have his case heard by a panel headed by Judge Jeff Blackett in London and is unlikely to head to Australia with the Lions when they leave on Monday.

The England hooker was sent off in the Premiership Final and embroiled in a cheating storm at Twickenham on Saturday as his Northampton side went down 37-17 to Leicester.

Hartley allegedly accused referee Wayne Barnes of cheating his side - comments that were heard by many of the 82 000 crowd who had access to the audio link with officials - and was immediately sent to the sidelines.

Hartley has been the subject of three previous bans. In 2007 he was sidelined for six months for gouging and in 2012 was on the wrong end of suspensions for punching and biting.

If Blackett gets tough he could ban Hartley for a year - the maximum under the current guidelines - although he could get away with less than six weeks which is the current minimum recommended sanction. Any ban over two weeks, however, would rule him out of the Lions tour after officials confirmed at Twickenham that all players must be fit and available for the second game of the tour on Wednesday, June 5 in Perth.

Hartley denies he was talking to Barnes and he has the backing of his club.

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder said: "If you talk like that to a player then you wouldn't expect anything to happen. Clearly, Wayne Barnes believes that Dylan has spoken to him, and that's why he has given him the red card.

"I'll support Dylan. He's my captain and if he said he wasn't speaking to the referee and was speaking to the player on the floor, then I can only support my skipper in what he says.

"He is meant to be with the British Lions (on Sunday), clearly there will be a hearing because he got a red card, and the hearing will look at it and see whether they believe Dylan Hartley or not."

The Hartley incident undermined Leicester's fourth Premiership playoff title win in the last nine finals and director of rugby Richard Cockerill is ready to banish the demons of the Tigers glory days that have hung over since Martin Johnson and Neil Back were conquering all before them.

Cockerill said: "This Leicester side are a blooming good team. They have played a lot of rugby this season with half of the season without our best players and we have injury issues, but we just get on with it.

"It is disappointing to come here and lose, we have done it more than once before. It is a great victory for us today (Saturday). I am pleased for the players because the club is steeped in history and we talk about all the other great players that have played for the club - the Johnsons, the Backs and all the others that have gone before them - but now it is about this team, this 2013 team."

Read more on:    lions in oz  |  dylan hartley  |  rugby
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