Dylan Hartley available for Six Nations after lenient six-week ban

England captain recieved a red card for collision which forced Sean O’Brien off after HIA

Referee Jérôme Garcès red cards Dylan Hartley of Northampton Saints after he struck Leinster’s Seán O’Brien around the head. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Referee Jérôme Garcès red cards Dylan Hartley of Northampton Saints after he struck Leinster’s Seán O’Brien around the head. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

England captain Dylan Hartley will be free to lead his side into the Six Nations championship after he was given a six-week ban for striking Seán O’Brien with his swinging arm during Leinster’s match with Northampton last weekend.

O’Brien was helped from the field and did not return from a head injury assessment.

ICYMI: The moment when @SaintsRugby's Dylan Hartley saw red after reckless swing. #ChampionsCup https://t.co/H9C0S6SbnB

— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) December 10, 2016

Hartley’s club, however, will miss him for the remaining matches of the Pool Four phase of the European Champions Cup, while England coach Eddie Jones will consider whether his troubled captain should continue to lead the England side.

England have been transformed since Jones became coach and Hartley was installed as captain with a 100 per cent record in 2016 and a 14-match winning streak. Jones and Hartley have also drawn level with Clive Woodward’s team of World Cup winners in 2002-03.

Six weeks could be viewed as lenient but in upholding the red card decision, the European Professional Club Rugby disciplinary committee found that the offence was at the mid-range of World Rugby’s sanctions and selected five weeks as the appropriate entry point.

Poor record

Taking into account Hartley’s poor disciplinary record, the third red card of his career, the committee added two weeks to the sanction and then reduced it by one week due to the player’s guilty plea.

Hartley is free to play on Monday, January 23rd, 2017 just 12 days before England face France in their opening Six Nations match on February 4th at Twickenham and a day after the last weekend of pool matches in Europe.

The ban coincidentally arrives on the day World Rugby has announced a zero tolerance for any contact between the heads of players including reckless and accidental collisions. In a change to the laws, World Rugby has redefined illegal (high) tackle categories and as a deterrent has increased the sanctions.

The measures to be delivered to all levels of the game from January 3rd of next year aim to change culture in the sport to ensure that the head is a no-go area.

For a reckless tackle the minimum sanction recommended is a yellow card and the maximum sanction a red card. For an accidental head clash the minimum sanction is a penalty.

Ulster are hoping to include some players that didn’t play last weekend for the the return visit to Clermont on Sunday, although little is certain at this stage. Stuart Olding, Andrew Trimble, Craig Gilroy, Alan O’Connor, Franco van der Merwe and Roger Wilson did not line out in Belfast.

“Don’t know,” said coach Neil Doak on player availability this week.

Robbie Diack is unlikely to play.

“Diack is probably the only one who may not come through this weekend,” explained Doak. “From a selection point of view we are probably going to be quite similar. I can’t envisage too many changes. Robbie got an impact in the ribs or back. Internal wise he just wasn’t feeling right so we took him off and had him checked out.”

Ulster are hoping to go to Stade Marcel Michelin and do what they did last year. In rounds three and four they beat Toulouse 38-0 at home before heading south to Stade Earnest Waloon, where they pulled off one of the best wins of the season, beating the home side 23-25.

Japan Tests

he Japan Rugby Football Union has confirmed the dates of Ireland’s two Tests against the Brave Blossoms in June of next year.

The first Test will take place on Saturday, June 17th and the second following a week later on Saturday, June 24th. 

Japan recorded one of the most memorable victories in Rugby World Cup history when they defeated South Africa 34-32 in Brighton at RWC15 prompting the coach Heyneke Meyer to apologise to the South African nation. 

Japan, previously coached by current England coach Jones, are 11th in the World Rugby rankings and also came close to a famous result against Wales at the Prinicipality Stadium in November, where they lost 33-30 to a last minute drop goal. Ireland Summer Tour of Japan: Japan v Ireland, Saturday June 17th, 2017; Japan v Ireland, Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Fixtures Hartley will miss Leinster (a), December 17th, Champions Cup Sale (h), December 23rd, Premiership Gloucester (a), January 1st, Premiership Bristol (h), January 7th, Premiership Castres (h), (date tbc) January, Champions Cup Montpellier (a), (date tbc) January, Champions Cup

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