Gatland admits that Hartley made poor judgement call

Lions coach said Northampton hooker had ‘gone to the edge of the cliff and jumped off’

 Lions coach Warren Gatland talks  to the media in London ahead of the squad’s departure.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Lions coach Warren Gatland talks to the media in London ahead of the squad’s departure. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Mon, May 27, 2013, 16:30

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland admits that Dylan Hartley had “gone to the edge of the cliff and jumped off” in response to his 11-week ban for abusing referee Wayne Barnes.

Gatland believes that Hartley will not appeal against the suspension, a decision that will rule the England hooker out of the tour to Hong Kong and Australia.

Instead, Ireland’s Rory Best will depart with the 37-man squad tonight after being the beneficiary of Hartley’s indiscipline.

Hartley called Barnes a “f****** cheat” during Northampton’s Aviva Premiership final defeat by Leicester at Twickenham on Saturday.

“Dylan’s a young man who has made an unfortunate error,” said Gatland at today’s departure press conference in Kensington.

“To play the game you have to play on the edge, but unfortunately he’s gone to the edge of the cliff and jumped off it. That’s the only analogy I can draw.

“I called him yesterday and left a message on his phone. He left a message on my phone today thanking me for the call.

“I was looking forward to working with him and really feel for him. He’s made a poor judgement. Hopefully he can put this behind him and move on.

“It’s my understanding that he won’t be appealing the decision, but that’s entirely up to him. He may decide to do that in the next day or so.”

Many felt that Best, who has been capped 67 times, should have been selected ahead of Hartley in the original squad announced last month and Gatland agrees that it was a difficult call.

“That decision had been going through my head as well,” he said.

“I have no problem admitting that post-selection I had that discussion with myself and said ‘Did I make the right call?’

“Everything that’s been written and people saying how unlucky he’s been is 100 per cent correct because I had those doubts initially myself.

“When we made the selection, the debate on hooker took by far the longest on and was he really unlucky.

“As soon as Dylan was ruled out he was the obvious choice, it was not even something we had to talk about.

“Sometimes fate can intervene and a player who was very unlucky to miss out never has a chance to step up and fight for his place.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if later on in the tour he’s in contention for a Test spot.”