Dylan Hartley: England axe hooker from World Cup squad after receiving four-week ban for head-butting Jamie George

Hartley has been banned for more than a year during his playing career and Stuart Lancaster issued him a final warning last December

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The Independent Online

Dylan Hartley has been axed from England’s World Cup squad following his four-week ban for head-butting Jamie George.

Hartley has an awful disciplinary record that led England head coach Stuart Lancaster to issue a final warning to the Northampton Saints captain, and his latest suspension means he has been banned for more than a year during his professional career.

The 29-year-old has previously been found guilty of biting, eye-gouging, punching, elbowing and verbally abusing a referee, and the latest incident during the Premiership play-off semi-final defeat to Saracens looks to have cost the hooker a place at this year’s Rugby World Cup and likely ended his England career prematurely.

Lancaster announced his squad to face the Barbarians at Twickenham this Sunday, and the RFU issued a statement to confirm that Hartley will not be a part of the host nation’s squad for their World Cup campaign due to his latest disciplinary slip-up.

 

The statement read: "Following the decision of the disciplinary panel Dylan Hartley has decided not to appeal the sanction handed down to him.

"The suspension rules him out of the two QBE International matches, the away game in Paris over the summer, as well as the opening game of the Rugby World Cup against Fiji on 18 September.

"As a result, the Northampton Saints hooker will be withdrawn from England's 50-man training squad for the Rugby World Cup."

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Hartley was sent-off in December for elbowing Matt Smith

Hartley apologised to his opponent George, as well as Lancaster for letting him down. He added that he was "devastated" to lose his place in the squad.

"I am devastated with what has happened and the position I have put myself and the England team in," said Hartley.

“I would like to apologise to Jamie, Stuart, and my team mates both at Saints as well as England. What happened is not acceptable and I understand why this decision has been made."

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Wayne Barnes sent Hartley off in the 2012/13 Premiership final

Lancaster explained that the absence of Hartley for all of England's warm-up games against France and Ireland plus the crucial pool match with Fiji means that he had no option than to drop him from the squad.

“We are obviously very disappointed with the situation that Dylan has put himself in and where that leaves us as a squad," Lancaster said. "I have spoken to him and he knows he has let himself and everyone down.

“If we selected him in the World Cup squad he would have played no competitive rugby at all and we would be left exposed with only two available hookers in what is a specialised position going into the Fiji game."

Lancaster added that Hartley has shown that he is yet to learn to control his discipline under pressure, and as such will be replaced in the squad by the man he head-butted in George.

“It also goes without saying that we need all our players to be able to control their discipline and make good decisions under pressure, the World Cup will clearly require this, and Dylan has not clearly displayed this in this latest incident. This is an area that he still needs to address," Lancaster added.

“Dylan will be replaced by Jamie George in the World Cup squad and will not be considered until the suspension is served. Jamie has obviously played well for Saracens this season and I’m sure will work extremely hard to take his opportunity.”

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Dylan Hartley is set to be dropped from England's World Cup squad

Hartley was in possession of the England number two shirt for the recent Six Nations campaign and was the favourite to start the first World Cup game against Fiji on 18 September, but his four week ban meant he would miss the curtain-raiser against the Pacific Islanders as well as England’s three warm-up games.

Lancaster has already confirmed that Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi will not be considered for England selection until January 2016 after he pleaded guilty to assaulting two female police officers and a taxi driver, and Hartley becomes the second player to fall foul of the England head coach’s strict disciplinary measures.

Hartley has been banned for 54 weeks during his career which stems back to April 2007 when he was suspended for 26 weeks for eye-gouging Wasps pair James Haskell – his current England team-mate – and Jonny O’Connor.

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Hartley's has fallen foul of referees on the international stage too

In March 2012 Hartley was suspended for another eight weeks after biting Ireland forward Stephen Ferris during a Six Nations match, and he was given an additional two-week ban in December that year for punching Irish hooker Rory Best in a Heineken Cup match against Ulster.

Hartley led Saints to the 2012/13 Premiership final but became the first person to be red carded in the Twickenham showpiece after he was found to have verbally abused referee Wayne Barnes, and the subsequent 11-week ban saw him ruled out of the British and Irish Lions Tour of Australia having been selected in the original squad.

He was then given a three-week suspension for elbowing Leicester wing Matt Smith in December last year, but despite the ban coming before the Six Nations, Lancaster chose to stick by him and gave the hooker one last chance to steer clear of any further indiscretions.

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Hartley stands alongside Stuart Lancaster

However, despite referee Greg Garner and television match official Sean Davey reviewing the incident after Saints scored a try at the weekend and deciding that no action was necessary, a disciplinary commission decided Hartley had head-butted George and banned him for four weeks.

Disciplinary committee chairman Sean Enright said: "There cannot be any place in our game for this class of behaviour, and that is why we have imposed this sanction."

It means that both George and Luke Cowan-Dickie – who will start against the Barbarians this weekend – are in the frame to replace Hartley in the final World Cup squad, while Leicester’s Tom Youngs is likely to take over the first-team position.

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