England captain Dylan Hartley banned for six weeks but cleared for Six Nations

The 30-year-old New Zealand-born hooker received the ban for striking Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien last week

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 December, 2016, 12:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 December, 2016, 7:28pm

England captain Dylan Hartley will be available to skipper the Six Nations champions for their opening game after receiving a six-week ban.

The 30-year-old New Zealand-born hooker received the ban for striking Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien in Friday’s European Champions Cup clash with his side Northampton.

Hartley had only been on the pitch for six minutes when French referee Jerome Garces gave him a straight red card.

O’Brien was unable to carry on after failing a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) and Hartley, who admitted the charge, will be free to play again on January 23.

He will still face a race to be considered match fit with England beginning the defence of their Six Nations title against France at Twickenham on February 4.

Hartley’s previous poor record counted against him and with the new ban he totals 60 weeks in suspensions.

Watch: Why Dylan Hartley received the ban

“In upholding the red card decision, the committee found that the offence was at the mid-range of World Rugby’s sanctions and selected five weeks as the appropriate entry point,” read the judgement.

“Taking into account Hartley’s poor disciplinary record, the committee added two weeks to the sanction and then reduced the sanction by one week due to the player’s guilty plea before imposing a suspension of six weeks.”

England coach Eddie Jones surprised many in appointing Hartley captain when he took over after the 2015 World Cup, but the choice proved inspired after 13 wins this year.

Jones was caught on camera in the stands running his hand down his face in despair when the hooker was sent-off.

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“I think Dylan’s got credit in the bank,” Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie told BBC Sport.

“I think most people would say it’s been a fantastic year. We’ve had 13 wins out of 13 and Dylan has made a huge contribution and he should be allowed to continue that.

“He’s been a great leader and his performances on the pitch, and the way he’s helped Eddie with the team... I think he’s done a fantastic job.”

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland had also offered his support to Hartley saying he had a great track record over the past year.

Hartley’s sorry disciplinary record includes suspensions for head-butting, biting and gouging.

He was dropped by then England coach Stuart Lancaster, who is now on the coaching staff at Leinster, for the 2015 World Cup after headbutting Saracens’ Jamie George.