Dylan Hartley injury adds to England's hooker trouble

 

England's plans for the forthcoming autumn matches against the cream of the southern hemisphere suffered more disruption yesterday when it was confirmed that their most experienced front-row forward, the Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley, suffered a hairline fracture of his eye socket during last Friday night's Premiership victory over Wasps. As hooker is the most pressing of the national team's problem positions, the news could hardly have been worse.

Northampton, top of the table after five rounds of fixtures, were their usual cautious selves in discussing the potential ramifications.

"It means he will be out short term and won't play this weekend," said Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder. But England head coach Stuart Lancaster, already beset by injury hassles, will have taken cold comfort from those words.

The recent retirement of the Lions forward Lee Mears from international rugby and the long-term fitness issues affecting a second Bath hooker, Rob Webber, have left England exposed in the hooking department ahead of a Twickenham series where operators as good as Adriaan Strauss of South Africa, Stephen Moore of Australia and the battle-scarred All Blacks Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu will be among the visiting No 2s.

To make matters worse, one of the uncapped contenders for an England place, Joe Gray of Harlequins, picked up a nasty eye injury of his own against Saracens at the weekend.

Graham Rowntree, the England forwards coach, was impressed by the Leicester youngster Tom Youngs during the five-match tour of South Africa back in June – a trip on which Hartley led his country for the first time – but there is a big difference between plonking him on the bench for the autumn Tests and starting him against some of the world's most accomplished close-quarter combatants.

Should Hartley require lengthy recuperation, a request from England to Mears to postpone his retirement for a few weeks will not be out of the question.

Meanwhile, Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend, one of the finest of all Scottish backs, made a typically eloquent appeal for protection of the pan-European ideal during yesterday's official launch of the Heineken Cup, which begins on Friday week under something of a cloud following the threat by clubs from England and France to quit the tournament at the end of the 2013-14 campaign.

Townsend, who played outside-half for the victorious British and Irish Lions in South Africa in 1997, publicly disagreed with Mallinder after the Northampton man had called for a qualification system based on strict meritocracy that might leave the Scottish contingent out in the cold. "I played in the Heineken Cup up here in Europe and I played Super Rugby down in the southern hemisphere, and the Heineken is the best club competition in the world precisely because it involves teams from half a dozen countries rather than just three," Townsend argued.

"It stands out in the same way that the Six Nations stood out against the old Tri-Nations. I believe the Scottish teams have made genuine progress in recent seasons. If we were unable to play in the top tournament, it would be a serious blow to rugby in the country."

A Lions tourist of more recent vintage and a character well acquainted with controversy, the Sale No 8 Andrew Powell will appear before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel in Leeds today charged with mouthing foul language at, and making an offensive hand gesture towards, a group of spectators during his side's weekend defeat Bath.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?