English rugby chief backs leadership of Dylan Hartley

Hooker faces disciplinary hearing on Wednesday after Leinster red card

Dylan Hartley’s conduct as England captain must count in his favour when considering his future in the post, according to the Rugby Football Union.

Hartley faces an independent disciplinary hearing on Wednesday to answer for the third red card of his career after being sent off for tackling Sean O’Brien from behind with a swinging arm in Northampton’s defeat by Leinster.

Champions Cup organisers confirmed on Tuesday that the 30-year-old hooker has been charged with striking, entailing a five-week suspension for a mid-range offence and eight weeks if the infringement is considered high-end.

Hartley has an appalling disciplinary record comprising of 54 weeks of bans for offences including biting, gouging and butting, a track record that is sure to result in an increase to the sanction imposed.

RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie, however, has been impressed by way he has led England during the 13 successive Test victories completed this year and insists the decision of who leads the team ultimately rests with head coach Eddie Jones.

“Dylan has clearly played a fantastic part in captaining the team, on and off the pitch just to be clear,” Ritchie said.

“His leadership credentials are very strong. He’s made a huge contribution, as Eddie would say.

“So you view all these things in perspective and in perspective one looks at the totality of what he’s done and what’s happened over the years and I think we should be supportive of that.

“Ultimately we’ll see what happens — I’m not going to talk about the disciplinary process as you know. That will take it’s course and we’ll see what happens out of that.

“If he’s eligible for selection it’s ultimately a matter for Eddie, but we should recognise and support all that Dylan has done in the last 12 months.

“It is primarily a matter for Eddie and if you look back over it, Eddie’s judgement has been really good. We should recognise that and I’m sure we will.”

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