England hooker Dylan Hartley suspended for eight weeks for biting opponent

 

England hooker Dylan Hartley tonight voiced his disappointment at his eight-week suspension for biting.

Hartley will be available for the summer tour to South Africa but will only play for Northampton again this season if they reach the Aviva Premiership final on May 26.

The 26-year-old was punished by an independent Six Nations committee for biting the finger of flanker Stephen Ferris during the 30-9 RBS 6 Nations victory over Ireland on March 17.

It had been speculated that he would face a lengthy spell on the sidelines having served a 26-week ban for gouging in 2007.

But it is understood that due the length of time that has passed since the incident, the hearing decided a four-week reduction to eight weeks was appropriate.

"I am disappointed by the result and I will wait for the written judgment as to how the panel came to their conclusion," Hartley said.

"I now have to put it behind me and focus on supporting Saints in training and off the field."

The written judgment is expected to be published by Friday.

Hartley was accompanied to the hearing by Graham Rowntree, the England forwards coach who is pleased that the Saints will skipper will be able to participate in the summer tour to South Africa.

"It's unfortunate for Dylan and Northampton, especially as he was in good form during the Six Nations and he has developed as a player and a leader," Rowntree said.

"However, we are looking forward to him being available for the tour to South Africa."

The offence was found to have contravened IRB Law 10.4(m) "acts contrary to good sportsmanship".

The hearing examined the evidence and listened to Hartley, his legal representative, Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder, Rowntree and Ferris via a video link.

It was decided that the offence merited a low entry point in the International Rugby Board's table of sanctions and allowed mitigation of four weeks. The 26-year-old can resume playing from May 14.

Biting carries a low-end entry point of a 12-week suspension, while the mid-range punishment is 18 weeks and there is a ban of 24-plus weeks at the top end. The maximum sanction is a four-year punishment.

The incident with Ferris occurred during the 28th minute of England's comfortable win at Twickenham, which saw them secure second place in the Six Nations table after an encouraging campaign under interim coach Stuart Lancaster.

Television footage did not capture the bite, but Ferris and some of his team-mates complained to Welsh referee Nigel Owens in the immediate aftermath.

PA

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