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British & Irish Lions
Dylan Hartley hit with 11-week ban
ESPN Staff
May 25, 2013

Northampton Saints hooker Dylan Hartley has been found guilty of verbal abuse of a match official and been suspended for 11 weeks.

Dylan Hartley's disciplinary woe

  • April 2007 - Hartley was banned for 26 weeks after being found guilty of gouging London Wasps' James Haskell and Jonny O'Connor.
  • March 2012 - The hooker was banned for eight weeks after being found guilty of biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris during England's Six Nations clash at Twickenham.
  • December 2012 - Hartley was handed a two-week ban after being found guilty of striking Ulster's Rory Best during Northampton's Heineken Cup clash at Franklin's Gardens.
  • May 2013 - Hartley is suspended for 11 weeks after being found guilty of abusing referee Wayne Barnes during his side's Premiership final defeat to Leicester.

Hartley was sent off during his side's 37-17 defeat to Leicester in Saturday's Aviva Premiership finale having allegedly called referee Wayne Barnes a "f****** cheat". Two minutes before that incident, Barnes had warned Hartley he would take action if the player made any further comments the official felt were directed at him.

The 27-year-old was summoned to a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing this morning where he was hit with just the latest lengthy ban of his career that would appear to dash his hopes of touring with the British & Irish Lions having been included in Warren Gatland's squad last month. Hartley has the right to appeal but Ireland's Rory Best looks likely to earn a call-up having been considered unlucky to miss out originally. The Lions have since issued a statement declaring that they "will now consider all the options before making any further announcement."

Hartley pleaded not guilty to the charge, having previously stated that he was talking to Leicester counterpart Tom Youngs, but the panel found him guilty and determined that this his offence was mid-range on the scale of seriousness. The entry point for mid-range is a suspension of 12 weeks and that was reduced by one week to reflect his good conduct at the hearing.

The hearing was chaired by Judge Jeff Blackett who said: "We cannot get around the fact that Wayne Barnes was certain that Mr. Hartley's comments were directed at him. Wayne Barnes said that if he had had any doubt in his mind, then he would have given the player the benefit of the doubt. In terms of sanction, calling a referee a cheat is an attack on his integrity and contrary to the core values of rugby and therefore we have taken a serious view and provided a serious sanction."

As a result he is suspended from today until July 6 and from August 17 to August 31 and is free to play again on September 1. In accordance with the Lions tour agreement the six-week tour of Australia represents eight of the eleven weeks suspension because of the tour schedule. The remaining three weeks of the suspension cover three of Northampton Saints' pre-season matches.

More to follow...

Leicester Tigers power to their 10th English crown
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