Bad boys, bad boys: Citings disrupt England’s Test plans
Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler and Nathan Hughes all facing disciplinary hearings
Dylan Hartley was sinbinned during Northampton’s Champions Cup defeat to Clermont. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty
Eddie Jones’s plans for the autumn Tests are in danger of being severely disrupted after three of his strongest forwards were cited following the weekend’s European fixtures. England’s captain, Dylan Hartley, the prop Joe Marler and the No8 Nathan Hughes must all now attend disciplinary hearings in London on Wednesday.
Hartley, no stranger to judicial panels having racked up 60 weeks in suspensions during his career, has been cited for striking the head of the Clermont Auvergne prop Rabah Slimani as he cleared out a ruck in the first half of Northampton’s defeat on Saturday. The 31-year-old was sent to the sin-bin but World Rugby’s zero tolerance policy on head injuries has prompted the citing official, Scotland’s Douglas Hunter, to decide the hooker has a fresh case to answer.
The low-end entry point for striking is two weeks so, even if he were found guilty, Hartley’s chances of featuring in England’s opening Test against Argentina on November 11th remain reasonably good. He received a six-week ban in December 2016 for striking the Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien in a Champions Cup match and this latest incident has come at an awkward moment for Hartley, with Saracens’ Jamie George mounting a strong case for his England starting jersey.
Marler is also back in the dock, this time for dropping a forearm on Wasps’ Will Rowlands during Harlequins’ heavy defeat in Coventry. The prop’s defence will be based on Rowlands’ apparent failure to release his leg following a tackle but his actions did not impress the Irish citing commissioner, Murray White. Both players will have their cases heard by a three-man panel comprised of England’s Jeremy Summers, Wales’s Rhian Williams and the former Scotland coach Frank Hadden.
Jones will also be keeping a close eye on the outcome of Hughes’s hearing after the numner eight was cited for a dangerous tackle on Harlequins’ young fly half Marcus Smith in the same match. England do not have a massive amount of cover in that position following injuries to Billy Vunipola and Jack Clifford.
Hughes, voted Sunday’s man of the match, would leave a sizeable hole if he were to be sidelined as well. The Wasps man received a citing commissioner’s warning only last month for striking the neck and face of Bath’s Taulupe Faletau while carrying the ball.
Neither of the two in-form Premiership alternatives, Exeter’s Sam Simmonds and Bath’s Zach Mercer, have a cap between them and Jones has hitherto shown little inclination to revert to more experienced names like Gloucester’s Ben Morgan or Simmonds’ team-mate Thomas Waldrom.
In addition to Marler, Harlequins have had another forward cited following Sunday’s 41-10 defeat. The flanker Dave Ward is alleged to have struck his opposite number Thomas Young with his head in the 47th minute and will also have his case heard in London on Wednesday.
Quins’ England winger Marland Yarde has been relegated to the bench for the club’s A League game against Gloucester after being dropped from the first team for poor timekeeping.